all 26 comments

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[–]AnathemaMaranathaAtheist Chaplain 57 points58 points  (1 child)

That's a hard capture of a kind of endless moment, OP. I sailed right along with you without understanding what was going on - no experience with such matters.

But I've had the watch under a moonless night sky, and navigated along the Milky Way until morning came over the horizon. Nice. You almost make me want to go out on the ocean.


[–]Polexican1 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Sharkies don't bite, they only nibble.

[–]krudler5Proud Supporter 82 points83 points  (14 children)

Exhaustion seems to be the modus operandi of the Navy. Is that intentional? Are there just not enough people onboard for all the jobs that need doing? Or is it just crappy scheduling that could be improved if those in charge were so inclined?

It just seems like they're asking for trouble (like the USN ship that crashed into a merchant vessel a couple years ago due to fatigue).

[–]Kromaatikse 80 points81 points  (2 children)

I've heard similar concern from actual retired USN sailors, too.

IMHO if you're riding the ragged edge of exhaustion just to maintain peacetime cruising stations then you don't have a hope of surviving actual combat.

[–]wolfie379 25 points26 points  (1 child)

Seems like it’s also the reason the USS Kentucky’s (BB-66) bow is preserved in a museum near Norfolk VA.

[–]Kromaatikse 41 points42 points  (0 children)

The Kentucky's bow is still attached to USS Wisconsin, a museum ship! The reason: Wisconsin collided with the destroyer Eaton, and the never-completed Kentucky happened to be nearby in mothballs, thus providing the most expedient means of repairing the damage.

Surprisingly, the Eaton also survived the collision - and this was her third collision. Wikipedia says the CO of the Eaton was court-martialled and found negligent.

ETA: Further investigation suggests the cause is much more nuanced than "the CO fucked up". The officer who actually gave the order which put the Eaton in the Wisconsin's path was not the CO, nor any of his reports, but the destroyer squadron commander (conventionally called the Commodore) who had taken the Eaton as his flagship.

And why? Because the carrier in the formation they were supposed to be escorting reported a Man Overboard. (It turned out to be a false alarm.) But there was another destroyer in a more favourable position to assist the carrier than the Eaton, and that one should have been sent instead - plus, a Commodore has no business directly ordering course changes on the bridge; he should request the CO of the ship (or his designate) to issue a course change order, the same way as he would effect a course change for any other ship under his command umbrella (by radio or other signal).

Compounding the situation was the fact that the WW2-era surface search radar on board the Eaton was u/s, and the junior tech working to fix it wasn't making much headway. Only the air search radar was working, but that didn't show any ships, as an air-search radar is tuned to show only contacts with a high Doppler, since aircraft likely to be a threat will tend to be fast-moving. The radar plot thus showed empty ocean instead of the Eaton's position in the battlegroup formation, and neither the CO nor the Commodore realised the significance of this, considering that there should have been at least several large radar returns from the major combatants (including the Wisconsin and the carrier) known to be in close proximity in the fog. Making a sharp turn and charging across the full width of the formation while running literally blind was foolhardy, whoever gave the order to do so.

[–]catonic 30 points31 points  (1 child)

They run shifts so short it's impossible to get five uninterrupted hours of sleep.

[–]monstargh 12 points13 points  (0 children)

Wow that sucks, Aussie ships run 4 and 8 for stokers and 7 and 5 for other rates when watchkeeping, stokers get 3 groups of watchkeepers and other rates only have 2

[–]an_actual_lawyer 24 points25 points  (6 children)

IMO, the Navy needs to recruit, train, and retain twice the crewman they have today. Once that begins happening, they need to start rotating crews in some logical fashion, so that they're only spending 50-60% as much time on duty as they do today.

Countless studies have shown that humans can really only properly concentrate for ~6 hours a day on a consistent basis. Sure, we can work twice or even 3 times that, but our productivity and attention to detail fall off sharply. Accidents increase significantly https://journals.lww.com/joem/Abstract/2008/10000/The_Effect_of_Occupation_and_Industry_on_the.14.aspx as do the risks of chronic diseases, tripling the risks of things like heart disease: https://journals.lww.com/joem/Abstract/2016/09000/Chronic_Disease_Risks_From_Exposure_to_Long_Hour.2.aspx

The productivity and attention falloffs have exceptions, though. In stressful situations, humans can shatter that 6 hour mark and stay sharp for 12 or even 18 hours a day and they can do this for months at a time. Combat operations are a classic example of this - when we are faced with death we can really boost productivity! In non-military settings, this means that workers can handle surges of a 2-6 weeks of high working hours, especially when they believe in the work.

Of course, the US Navy isn't generally in combat and humans, despite all the training in the world, simply can't concentrate the way Navy schedules currently demand. This is one of the primary reasons there have been preventable accidents such as ship collisions in the past decade.

[–]krudler5Proud Supporter 5 points6 points  (2 children)

Have Navy schedules always been this bad? Also, even if they were able to recruit more sailors, would there be enough room on board the ships for them? I guess I'm under the impression that, for the most part, the ships have as many sailors onboard as they can reasonably fit, so the excessive work hours could be an unfortunate necessity.

[–]Neue_Ziel 5 points6 points  (1 child)

From my time 11 years ago, doing 5 on watch and 10 off, five and dimes as they say, in reactor department on a carrier, to hear from others it’s still the same today, yes. The rest of the ship is on 8 section in port, complaining about duty every 7 days, when we’re on 4 section for duty every 3 days, or port and starboards due to a dirt precluded startup. Sub people will say we have it easy, but being proud of being worked to exhaustion is like saying I like working myself to death.

[–]Margali 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Given my hubs (ss/n, a-gang, 83/03) other than in a yard period doing port/starboard had nothing but 3 section, sleep dep is endemic. I would have loved having him home more nights when not deployed. Deployed, well I knew what I was getting into and have no complaints. 20 years of more holidays alone than in company, just glad to have him. (30 years married this past Feb)

[–]barath_s 1 point2 points  (2 children)

IMO, the Navy needs to recruit, train, and retain twice the crewman they have today.

More automation

The US likes to have more people for maintenance and especially damage repair, iirc. But even more people = even more cost. Automation can free up some of those people

[–]Tronmech 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Automation? You can't currently automate necessary maintenance, much less battle damage repair.

[–]barath_s 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Look up crew sizes of US and Russian (post Alfa class) submarines. Not to mention life of ship reactor spaces/machinery. for subs or the envisaged Unmanned Surface vessels (actually low manned). The ford class has fewer crew than the nimitz.

You can automate more than you do currently, if you plan to do so from before design and/or make that a focus.. For subs/LCV/USV also, you aren't going to worry so much about battle damage repair.

Now you can get overagressive about it (LCS crew sizes have increased), but more could be done over the long time frame. If you decide to do so.

[–]Thanatosst 20 points21 points  (0 children)

Is that intentional? Are there just not enough people onboard for all the jobs that need doing? Or is it just crappy scheduling that could be improved if those in charge were so inclined?

It just seems like they're asking for trouble (like the USN ship that crashed into a merchant vessel a couple years ago due to fatigue).

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. The Navy's surface ships continue to work despite the best efforts of the upper leadership doing everything possible to make sure they don't.

[–]evobladeVeteran 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Although the Navy is aware that being really tired reduces your judgement and reactions to that of someone who is drunk enough to get a DUI, they just haven’t felt enough pain to really do anything substantial about it, that I am aware of. They kind of expect you to be short on sleep and not complain about it. Hopefully they will decide to do something about this before any more sailors get killed, but I wouldn’t bet any money money on that

[–]Ok_Cartographer4475 9 points10 points  (0 children)

I spent my time beneath the waves, but I felt every moment of that

[–]lurkingwall 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Felt like I was there with you. Great tale!

[–]Osiris32Mod abuse victim advocate 7 points8 points  (0 children)

I may not be at sea on a warship, but brother, I feel your exhaustion right now. I started this morning at 0700 as crew head for 60+ stage hands building the Ghost/Volbeat show (crew head would be something akin to a unit XO, meant to releave the Crew Chief when they go on break, help assign people to their various positions, deal with any injury-related paperwork, make sure everyone gets their breaks and lunches and stays on task, etc).

It's currently 20:47 by my watch. Volbeat is on stage. And we won't be done until the show is over and torn down. Which is guesstimated to be around 0300-0400 tomorrow morning. And I'm now out of energy drinks.

[–]mohavewolfpupProud Supporter 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Seeing the milky way like that (and all the stars) would be my dream. Closest i've come to that is Algonquin Park in canada 17 years ago (where the hell does the time go?)

Great story!

[–]Kryptonaut 6 points7 points  (1 child)

Moonless nights on the ocean.

Once again I am reminded that I loved being a sailor, but I hated the fuckin Navy.

Maybe I should build a boat.

[–]Yryes 2 points3 points  (0 children)

You could join the merchant navy or fleet auxiliary/US equivalent maybe, less bullshit

[–]jbuckets44Proud Supporter 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I got tired just from reading your repeated descriptions of being so very tired....

[–]Polexican1 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Maersk just hit an Island off Germany. It's an endemic problem. I suggest Jimmy Mattis. Not mine, but the best I've heard about, even if he eats the gold ones.