Monday, October 26, 2009

Lack of Sleep

I generally try to stay away from current affairs in this blog and stick to the old days of the steam Navy, but not for this post.

There is an article in Navy Times concerning the lean manning of ships and the effect of lack of sleep on the crews. And it's not just ships that are feeling the pinch.

This may be a concern because of fewer sailors, but as a matter of fact, in the ranks of watchstanders, this has always been a serious problem for officers. It was routine to stand 3-section underway watches, which means that you are on watch for roughly eight hours a day and then, in the off-time, you have to do your job. One day out of three you get the luxury of coming off watch at midnight and then being able to sleep until 0600, when you then have to get up, grab a quick shower, and go on watch at 0700. When you stand a forenoon watch (on deck at 0345), you were previously on watch until 2000 the evening before. The midshitter is the cruelest watch; you go on at 2345 and you're there until roughly 0400. You are damned fortunate if you can get two hours of sleep on either side.

All that is if there is nothing else going on. You might have a night refueling, which calls you to a refueling station. I know of one OOD who damn near ran a ship around on Sardinia because of exhaustion; that particular OOD was on refueling station from 2100 to 0130 (the ship was in waiting station for hours because the ship ahead of her had a fouled rig or something and could not disconnect) and then stood the rev watch from 0345 to 0700. The OOD was dog tired and could not think at a much higher level than "fire bad, tree pretty". That was, by far, not the only example I can think of. I've seen some hairy-ass shit happen because sailors and officers were overtired.

I knew of one refueling ship over 20 years ago (an AOR, I think) whose captain refused to obey an order to take her to sea because the ship was so undermanned in boiler techs. It was the talk of the waterfront for awhile, the captain probably killed his career, but everyone knew that he had made the right call.

The problem is only going to be exacerbated on the new littoral combat ships, which are supposed to be operated with a very small crew. That means that it will be operated with a very tired crew that will make mistakes. That also means that the ships will wind up looking as rusty as a Russian Navy destroyer; First Division on a 1052 had about 20+ sailors to do topside maintenance and that would be half the crew of a LCS. Computerization is nice, but computers can't chip paint, swab decks or paint shit. And unless the ships have halon fire-suppression everywhere ("evacuate the compartment, shut the doors/hatches and pump in halon"), I do not see how a ship with 40 people will be able to fight a serious fire.

I suspect that the Navy is asking for some serious problems beyond the grounding of the USS Port Royal.


chaoticsynapticactivity said...

I believe it was one of the AOs and I'm not sure how it panned out.

For the longest time, it's been if you're not dead tired from 32 collateral duites and then your watchstanding, we're not working you hard enough.

I'll say this: Too freaking much paperwork which should be turned over to the cmputer systems when it still needs to be done. But that relies on "experts' on the beach at NAVMASSO (if it's still around) never letting you tell them what needsto be autmated. That's not helped by the lack of a systemic view of shipboard operations and management tasks.

I tried to fix it, even put in a huge MILCAP, which I had to fight to get them to finally agree it was a good way to proceed (they agreed a few weeks before I retierd). They just waited me out and then dropped the plan. Long story

Comrade E.B. Misfit said...

And then there was the cardinal sin for JOs: Watching a movie while underway. You were supposed to be on watch, doing paperwork, touring your spaces, doing PQS or sleeping. Only the CO, the XO, the pork chops and the helo pilots had the time to watch movies underway.

stephen said...

I have been to the point of halucination....

stephen said...

I believe the ship was the Canisteo, an AO, in the mid to late '80s. They could only mount 1.5 main space watches. 600lb plant.

That is one CO I admire.

Comrade E.B. Misfit said...

Stephen, I think you're right about the ship, she was at Norfolk, no?