As we midshipmen at the Naval Academy prepare to go on spring break, I wonder how much rest and relaxation improves performance.

I know that when we come back from a break, both moral and focus improve throughout the Brigade of Midshipmen. But no operational unit can afford a spring break. Unlike cadets and midshipmen, the sailor or marine who enlisted right out of high school doesn’t have the luxury of knowing they will get a week off every spring. I would imagine that having time to reset after a deployment would improve performance and keep more sailors in the service. But with the Navy constantly trying to do more with less, how do we balance work with rest?

Striking a proper balance keeps people motivated and focused on their jobs- especially important qualities for all military personnel. Time-off gives the sailor time to manage his or her personal life and increases the chance that he or she will re-enlist. However, due to multiple combat deployments, the military divorce rate has steadily increased every year since 2001 and is now above the national divorce rate, according to a Pentagon study. Considering the U.S. military budget is not going to increase 13% like China’s budget did last year, all military branches will have to increase efficiency and put sailors where they are most needed. Yes, military life is inherently tough, but increasing off-time increases the likelihood that good sailors will stay in the service. With more sailors, the burden on each “link in the chain” will decrease.

Increasing efficiency is the goal of every military, political, and business leader. Every unit wants to win the Battle E- note the E for Efficiency. While becoming more efficient sounds good on paper, in reality it’s difficult because it requires changing the “way it’s always been done.” We midshipmen should enjoy spring break, but realize what a sea-change in leave time awaits us in the fleet.

Posted by jjames in Navy, Training & Education

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  • B. Walthrop

    When a ship that is tired returneth,
    With the signs of the seas showing plain;
    Men place her in dock for a season,
    And her speed she reneweth again.

    So shall ye, if perchance ye grow weary,
    In the uttermost parts of the sea,
    Pray for leave, for the good of the Service,
    As much and as oft as may be.

    You are right on a certain level of course, but I know that I haven’t followed these two “laws of the Navy” particularly well myself. It’s not that I could not have done it. It is mostly because at any given time I viewed myself as indispensable regardless of the evidence to the contrary. None of us are, and we should keep that in mind as we work as both leaders and followers to maintain balance.

    Enjoy your spring break, and remember to never let school stand in the way of your education.


  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    You do get POM leave before and after a deployment (two weeks before and after).

    The hard part is that usually, after the deployment you head to the yards. Man, the yards were a nightmare…

    I ended up standing 48-on, 48-off. Because of some ATFP fiasco. the way it was supposed to work, was that my 48 off would be liberty. But, as the ship’s ONLY TADTAR manager, I ended up not being afforded my liberty. Because, when in the yards, everyone ends up going to schools.

    That was the most difficult period in my life, hands down. Those two weeks were hardly enough to get used to being back from my first deployment, which was difficult in itself.

    But, what do I view as the source of all that difficulty? Optimal Manning.

    That is a large reason why the ATFP fiasco came about, it was why I was the only TADTAR manager, it was why when my ship sent people to schools, we hardly had enough personnel for 3 section duty in the yards.

    More with less in the sense of optimal manning, was an ephemeral experiment because we didn’t allow our system to evolve with the reduction in manpower and reality at sea is that it takes Sailors not automation for the most basic of tasks.

  • It is good to see a young prospective leader thinking outside the box. We should never stop looking for different ways to make our Navy a more effective military organization. I hope you enjoy your spring break and have the opportunity to spend time with one or more of our operational commands before you head back to class. You make a good point when you talk about affording our Sailors a chance to recharge their batteries between deployments. Actually, this is something that we try to do before and after a unit deploys. Prior to deployment, a command enters into what we call POM (Preparations for Overseas Movement).

    We also try and use this period of time to allow our Sailor to take leave and spend time with their families and to take care of personal business. Likewise, when a unit returns from deployment, planning takes place to allow Sailors to take leave. You are correct; the opportunity to rest the mind and body is necessary to obtain a Sailors maximum performance.

    As a Division Officer, you will be working alongside a Chief Petty Officer. You and your Chief will be responsible to ensure that you are completing the many requirements that will be placed on your command to maintain operational readiness. One part of these responsibilities will be to strike the correct balance of rest and recovery for the Sailors that will be under your charge. What you will find is that under the “current” Fleet Response Plan (FRP) and high operational tempo that the U.S. Navy maintains will not allow your entire command to take more that a few days off at one time. Today and in the foreseeable future, we will be stretched thin to meet the global demands placed on our Navy as we support the maritime strategy. The journey you are about to embark on is not for the weak or lazy. You/we will be required to perform duties that are extremely demanding, both physically and mentally. You will be placed under stress that most people will never face, but the training and mentorship that you will receive will prepare you for the challenges to come.

    Again, never stop looking for different ways to improve our Navy.

    All the best, Fleet Master Chief Mike Stevens, U. S. Fleet Forces Command.

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    Master Chief (as all Master Chiefs do) makes a really good point. If I may, I’m going to follow his lead.

    During my arduous yards period, it fell on my DIVO to help make sense of the demands placed on me and the rest of the Sailors in my Division. Again, because of how my ship was manned, there were many instances where my DIVO had to be more like my LCPO, and other times where my LCPO had to be more like my DIVO.

    This instance was the former of the two.

    I don’t remember all of the details any more. But, I do remember, one morning just after quarters on the bridge wing. I was explaining to her all the difficulties we were having – there were many. There wasn’t a good solution. Most of all the challenges we were facing could only be worked with, there was no work around. She listened to everything I said, and told me that she would have to talk to my LCPO and Department Head. But, she also told me what her impression of the situation was. After consulting with my Chief and DH, she told me what the best course of action was, and why. It wasn’t always what I wanted to hear, but she never left any work related challenge I was facing as being only my problem. She made my challenges her own, and looked to find a way to remove any unnecessary challenges. What’s more is that she did all of this on top of all the officer related stuff she also had to do.

    Many DIVOs will give the impression that Division Administration is a secondary thought to their other demands. I can’t really blame them for that, getting your SWO pin, basically being a watch stander and a number of things I’ve only been given the slightest of impressions of all amount to a level of responsibility beyond what’s expected of a Sailor who’s been in an equal number of years as most DIVOs. The amount of detail required for a proper DIVO’s notebook is daunting, as is the fact that you’re going to be stepping into a division with Enlisted personnel who’s ‘main’ duties and training specialize them in that Division’s function. SWOs don’t get that level of specialization, especially if you end up being in X-Div (Admin).

    My DIVO at that time was exceptional because she overcame all that and led us.

    To this day, she was the best DIVO I ever had. Mostly, because she made me feel I wasn’t adrift at a time when my stress levels were higher than at any point in my life, even higher than anything I ever went through in AFG.