The sacrifice of time away from home is unavoidable, but the U.S. Navy could learn a lot from its European allies about making life at sea more enjoyable and rewarding.
Recently, I had an opportunity to ride the Dutch frigate HNLMS Abraham van der Hulst as an observer during exercises Sharem 124 and Keynote V in the Gulf of Oman. Transferred to and from the Dutch ship at sea from the USS O'Brien (DD-975), I was able to compare the professional and personal quality of life for the officers on these two combatants. Juxtaposed with the Dutch Navy—which appears at peace with its commitments and limitations—our vulnerability to overload and inefficiency is evident. It has long been my opinion that officers on U.S. Navy ships have too many competing priorities to be able to do anything as well as they could, and with more diffuse missions and a shrinking force, things have gotten worse.