NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Senior enlisted leaders from the three sea services said today that they continue to look at ways to ensure personnel get proper rest as a way of preventing future tragedies such as the two deadly ship collisions in the Pacific last summer.
The Navy has taken steps to get sailors more sleep, implementing new schedules designed to guarantee more consistent rest after the destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain collided with commercial ships in separate, deadly incidents last year.
U.S. Military leaders have often pushed the limits of their troops' mental and physical endurance when it’s required to accomplish a mission. But Navy investigations into the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions cited fatigue as a contributing factor in the disasters.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano said Wednesday that leaders must constantly keep in mind that a sailor's life at sea is filled with "time spent operating on those platforms, the time spent training, the time spent qualifying and the time spent doing all the other things they want to be able to achieve ... and that is demanding, so what can we do better to help them manage that time a little bit better?"
"It's important that sailors get sleep; the science will tell you that you have got go have a certain number of hours of sleep to be capable of performance," Giordano told an audience at the Sea, Air and Space exposition Wednesday.
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green said his service is paying more attention to the diet, sleep schedule and fitness of Marines to ensure readiness and prevent accidents.
"It's the sleep, it's the fitness -- mental, physical and, I say, spiritual fitness," Green said.
Spiritual fitness "for us is what bonds us together and causes us to be willing to go out and be willing to die for one another, to be willing to die for the nation, to be willing to die for people we never know from other nations," Green said, emphasizing again "what … we eat, fitness and sleep."
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell said hurricane-relief operations typically have Coast Guard personnel working 80 to 90 hours straight.
Members of the Coast Guard all realize that they joined "a humanitarian service, and they don't want to see people suffering," Cantrell said, adding that leaders have to be concerned if "they are going to expend all their energy ... because they are so devoted to a mission."
"Each of our sea services operates in an unforgiving environment; the sea is a terrible thing," Cantrell said. "It doesn't let up, and if you are not prepared for it, it can hurt you. We have lost Coast Guard personnel many times in tragic accidents."
Leaders have to watch their subordinates, Cantrell said.
"Do they get enough sleep? Do they have problems at home? We have to be mindful of that," he said. "Those are the kinds of things that keep me up at night."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.