Nobody Asked Me But...Taking Care of Our People?

By Lieutenant Commander Mark Werner, U.S. Naval Reserve

The Navy regulates ships' manning to attain the highest readiness rating for deploying ships the day they deploy. This looks great in Pentagon briefings for the uninitiated, but it does not meet a ship's needs. The hardest part of a ship's schedule is the "inspection-ofthe-week cycle" prior to deployment. This is the time we train our crews for deployment. Since the deployment plus-up comes so late, we get through the inspection cycle with veterans from the last deployment. Many of these vets transfer prior to deployment, which requires the ship to train new personnel on the job.

Year in and year out, the Navy does not program enough money to make permanent change-of-station moves. This is unconscionable. We know going into the year the number of moves that will occur, so budget for it. If the amount budgeted is not enough, take action against programmers who have made the same mistake for the past ten years or stand up and admit that this is not a Navy priority. If a contingency comes up that requires reprogramming funding, fence off moving money. The Army and Air Force don't have a problem admitting that unplanned deployments require additional funding. There is not a congressman who would vote against moving funds. This is a quality-of-life issue that should be a non-issue.

In days past, Sailors regaling their friends from back home with the stories of their exotic port calls did more for recruiting than any high priced advertising campaign. When today's Sailors come home, what stories will they tell? They will explain "Cinderella liberty" means they had to be back to the ship by 2359 by order of the fleet commander. This policy works in the short term because most Sailors do not have enough time to get into trouble. Conversely, they do not have time to interface with the local population for the cultural interaction that the nation has benefited from for generations. Perhaps our Sailors will tell their friends about "sandbox liberty." This is a new type of liberty where we go to countries—whose interests we are actively protecting—and are confined to the port area. Our "friends" fear our mere presence will disrupt their medieval societies. The American Bluejacket is a national asset who routinely works miracles. Not rewarding their hard work on deployments, with quality liberty time and visits, will cause further declines in recruiting and reenlistments.

The Navy is in a period of contraction and confusion. Strong leadership on issues that directly affect every sailor and officer is vital. The CNO's initiative on the interdeployment training cycle is a great first step; nevertheless, it is obvious that many issues remain. They all do not require action from the DoD, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or Congress. These self-inflicted wounds warrant immediate action, which surely would pay big dividends.

Lieutenant Commander Werner is on the staff of OPNAV. He has served as staff materials officer for Commander, Amphibious Squadron Three and as chief engineer of the Lamoure County (LST-1194).

 

 
 

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