For the three years I worked on a submarine, I never averaged 6 hours of sleep a night. Most nights underway, it was 3-4, occasionally 5. In port, I might make it to 6 hours, depending on how much maintenance my division was performing. At the time, I simply felt like a zombie, but I shrugged it off, because our whole crew received little sleep.
That lack of sleep took a toll. I struggled to maintain a healthy weight and was always stressed. My temper was ALWAYS short. I found it hard to concentrate on tasks and study for exams. I missed lots of details. Luckily, I had good watch teams, where we caught each others mistakes, but I felt a lot like the crews in Battlestar Galactica Episode 33.
The Navy’s attitude towards junior officers in the submarine and surface fleet complaining about sleep is “suck it up.” That “suck it up” mentality is backfiring, because the Navy found that lack of sleep contributed to two recent collisions that killed 17 Sailors. Ironically, the Navy is dictating required sleep for any personnel that work on aircraft, but hasn’t done so for surface fleet watchstanders. In the past, it was simply aircrew personnel.
The sad part is that our own culture is still fighting this. I sit on a number of Facebook groups, and rather than supporting measures to get our Sailors sleep, they mock them, with the typical “back in my day” speech. The truth is that we are running our ships ragged, much worse than we ever did before September 11, 2001. They don’t have enough manpower, in many cases due to gapped billets by personnel ripped away through the Individual Augmentation process. They have crazy schedules written by distant leaders who are often not monitoring how hard they push them. Even when they are in port, they are struggling to get repairs to the ship, and our shipyards are growing more inefficient at getting even basic maintenance done.
We are burning both ends of a candle, while China and Russia build a bigger and more lethal candle. The portions of the fleet closest to the problem are the ones worst affected.
In many ways, we are becoming our own worst enemy. We spend billions on a Navy, then overtax it with requirements it can’t possibly fill, run its Sailors into the ground, and don’t put in the money for maintenance or training. If we can’t build a larger fleet, remove some of our requirements and get our Sailors healthy again, we won’t be able to take on our peer adversaries, because we’re too busy fighting ourselves.
Please donate to Da Tech Guy, and let your Congressional representative know that you care about how much sleep our military is getting.