Can You Choose Where to Be Stationed in the Navy: Explained


Career Consultant & Blog Writer

Published: July 12, 2023 | Updated: December 8, 2023

You can choose your preferences for duty station assignments in the Navy but, the final decision is based on the needs of the Navy, the availability of positions, and other factors. While the Navy considers your preferences, there is no guarantee of being assigned to a specific location.

In this article, we will explain the topic “Can you choose where to be stationed in the Navy” and the factors that influence Navy assignments and discuss the options available for selecting your desired duty station.

Understanding Navy Assignments

When you join the Navy, your assignment to a particular duty station is ultimately determined by the needs of the Navy and the available positions at any given time. While there are no guarantees of being assigned to a specific location, the Navy strives to consider the preferences and qualifications of its sailors during the assignment process.

Factors Influencing Duty Station Assignments

When it comes to determining your station in the Navy, several factors come into play. These factors are considered during the assignment process, which aims to balance the needs of the Navy with the preferences and qualifications of the sailors. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key factors influencing naval station assignments:

#1. Operational Needs of the Navy

The operational needs of the Navy play a significant role in determining where sailors are stationed. The Navy must ensure that its personnel are strategically placed to support missions and operations worldwide. This means that certain locations may have a higher demand for sailors with specific skill sets or rates (jobs) than others.

#2. Rate (Job) Selection

The rate, or job, you choose in the Navy can also influence your duty station assignment. Different rates have varying requirements and operational locations. Some rates may be more prevalent in specific geographic areas, such as those related to aviation being concentrated near naval air stations or aircraft carriers.

#3. Personal Preference

While personal preference is taken into consideration, it is important to note that the Navy’s operational needs typically take precedence over individual desires. However, the Navy makes efforts to accommodate preferences when possible, depending on the availability of positions and the qualifications of the sailor.

#4. Sea Duty vs. Shore Duty

Another factor to consider is the distinction between sea duty and shore duty. Sea duty refers to assignments on naval vessels or with operational units that deploy at sea, while shore duty refers to assignments at naval installations on land. The Navy aims to strike a balance between sea and shore duty assignments, considering factors such as job requirements, family considerations, and individual career goals.

To understand how the Navy assigns duty stations, it is essential to be familiar with the assignment process and the key players involved.

Detailers and Career Counselors

Navy detailers and career counselors are responsible for managing the assignment process. Detailers are experienced sailors who work closely with career counselors to match the needs of the Navy with the preferences and qualifications of individual sailors.

Dream Sheets

During the assignment process, sailors are typically asked to fill out a “dream sheet” where they can list their preferred duty stations. While the Navy takes these preferences into account, it is important to note that dream sheets are not guarantees of assignment to a specific location.

Assignment Considerations

When making assignments, the Navy considers various factors such as rank, job qualifications, time on station, tour lengths, sea/shore rotation, and family considerations. Balancing these factors ensures the efficient operation of the Navy while also considering the well-being of its sailors.

Can You Request a Specific Duty Station?

While it is possible to request a specific duty station, there is no guarantee that the Navy will be able to fulfill the request. The availability of positions, operational needs, and other factors may limit the options for specific assignments. It is important to maintain flexibility and an open mindset when it comes to duty station assignments in the Navy.

Flexibility and Adaptability in the Navy

Flexibility and adaptability are essential qualities for any sailor in the Navy. The ability to embrace new challenges and adapt to different environments is highly valued. While you may not have full control over your initial duty station, the Navy provides opportunities for career advancement, training, and the potential to transfer to different locations throughout your career.

Pros and Cons of Choosing Your Duty Station


  • Exposure to diverse cultures and environments: Serving in different duty stations allows sailors to experience a variety of cultures and locations, broadening their horizons.
  • Professional growth opportunities: Assignments in certain duty stations can provide unique professional growth opportunities, specialized training, and exposure to cutting-edge technology.
  • Networking and building connections: Being stationed in different locations allows sailors to network with professionals from various backgrounds, fostering personal and professional connections that can benefit their careers.


  • Limited control over initial assignment: The Navy’s operational needs may limit the choices for initial duty station assignments, potentially resulting in a location that is not one’s top preference.
  • Frequent relocation: Sailors can expect to relocate multiple times during their Navy career, which may require adjustments to personal and family life.
  • Separation from loved ones: Duty station assignments can sometimes lead to separation from family and friends for extended periods, particularly during deployments.

Bottom Line

Choosing where to be stationed in the Navy is a complex process that considers operational requirements, rates and ranks, Navy manning levels, career progression, and family considerations. While initial duty station assignments are typically determined by the Navy, sailors gain more control over subsequent assignments as they progress in their careers. By understanding the factors that influence naval station assignments and leveraging available programs, sailors can navigate their careers and have a greater say in their future duty stations. Remember, embracing the opportunities and challenges of different duty stations is part of the unique experience of serving in the Navy!

FAQs With Answers about Can You Choose Where to Be Stationed in the Navy

Where does the Navy get stationed the most?

The Navy has installations and bases worldwide, allowing it to operate globally. The most common locations for Navy stations include Norfolk, Virginia; San Diego, California; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Yokosuka, Japan; and Rota, Spain. However, the Navy operates in various other locations depending on operational requirements.

Can you choose where you want to be stationed in the military?

Each branch of the military has its own policies and procedures for duty station assignments. While you can express your preferences, the availability of positions, operational needs, and other factors influence the final decision. It is important to consult with your branch’s career counselors for specific information on duty station assignments.

Where do Navy recruits usually get stationed?

Navy recruits typically go through basic training at Recruit Training Command (RTC) in Great Lakes, Illinois. After completing basic training, recruits are assigned to various Navy training schools to learn their specific rates (jobs). The duty station assignments for Navy recruits after training depend on the needs of the Navy and the qualifications of the individual.

Can You Choose Your First Duty Station?

While it’s understandable to desire control over your first duty station in the Navy, it’s essential to manage expectations. For most sailors, especially those entering the Navy for the first time, the ability to choose their initial duty station is limited. The Navy assigns newly enlisted sailors based on its needs, considering factors like training pipelines, job availability, and fleet requirements.
However, as sailors gain experience and complete their initial obligations, they generally gain more control over their subsequent assignments. The Navy provides opportunities for sailors to submit requests for duty stations, taking into account their career goals, personal circumstances, and the needs of the service.