I left the Navy seven years ago—about six months earlier than planned—partly because of the accumulated stress of multiple back-to-back sea tours inflicted on me and my family. I worked in industry for a few years and, last year, having studied human factors for six years at the doctorate level, I decided to rejoin government service and address some of the stress about which my wife Gudrun has written.
What I found on my return was a service that feels like it is under more stress and stretched thinner than it was when I retired. Navy manning has increased, but gaps and shortages, extended maintenance periods, and record-setting deployments—as well as the COVID-19 pandemic—are affecting the health of the force and their families. While resources have always existed to assist sailors dealing with stress and fatigue, access while on sea duty is challenging.