This. You have no idea how things are going to go at the level you are starting at. It's really not worth gaming the system in my opinion.This is good advice. This isn't quite as true as it used to be (on the BMD side), but it's the best you'll get. The trend in recent years (at least in ships headed out to 7th fleet) is that BMD ships deploy with the Strike Group then occasionally split off if required to source various BMD missions that might arise. As more and more BMD assets have entered the fleet (especially FDNF) the trend of dedicated BMD deployers has become less common.
Some of the guidance on standing missions has also shifted over time.
Also keep in mind that with rare exceptions (ROTA) ships slated to be independent can become Strike Group escorts, and vice versa. USS Last Ship was slated to deploy with the Strike Group, was late getting out of the yards, and shifted to a ridiculous independent deployment to Europe, with some other poor sap rotating in to take their place with the Strike Group.
Finally, even ships attached to the Strike Group may regularly split off, depending on your AOR. We were 'attached' to RRSG most of last year, but we spent about half the time doing independent operations, and the less said about TR's escorts this deployment the better.
Outside of ROTA almost all of those are rolls of the dice. You can try to weight the dice more favorably, but still the chance that your best laid plans explode. Generally speaking though, if your goal is sea time, it's hard to go wrong with any Japan or Rota based CG or DDG. Our OPTEMP has been 200+ days underway a year pretty consistently, and this year we're looking at 240+.
For a first tour, I'd go almost purely based off of location...you can't go wrong with getting paid to work out of Hawaii, San Diego, or Rota.
The only thing I'd caution is to understand that the Navy isn't built at the high end around independent deployers. Remember stressing training is what ultimately makes you better. Independent deployments where you don't have to coordinate with other units, operate as part of a composite unit like a Strike Group, are almost stupidly easy in comparison...but not reflective of how the Navy is really meant to operate.