Enhancing Safety and Warfighting

SAN DIEGO – Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF) issued a new policy aimed toward ensuring Sailors assigned to warships and supporting afloat staffs are getting the necessary rest to operate safely, and ultimately increase their warfighting capabilities.

The Comprehensive Fatigue and Endurance Management Policy, released Nov. 30, fulfilled one of the recommendations provided by the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents, an assessment completed by Adm. Phil Davidson, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

“The Surface Force and our Navy are off to a strong start implementing the Comprehensive Review initiatives. We are making Surface Forces safer, more proficient and more effective by addressing fundamentals, operational safety, teamwork, assessments, and culture as outlined in the comprehensive review,” said Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces.

The Comprehensive Fatigue and Endurance Management policy mandates each commanding officer (CO) incorporate circadian rhythm principles into their watchbills and shipboard routines. It also provides guidelines for Sailor rest and workdays. Contrasting traditional Surface Navy watch rotations like “Five-and-Dimes,” in which watchstanders continually rotate through different shifts each day, circadian watch routines place emphasis on Sailors standing the same watches each 24-hour period. This helps Sailors natural physiological rhythms adapt to a more consistent daily routine. The goal is to produce better rested, more alert Sailors.

Given the uncertainties of day-to-day operations at sea, COs are provided latitude in determining how to best implement this policy in their commands. However, the general guidance is Sailors should get a minimum seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour day (seven uninterrupted hours, or five uninterrupted hours with a follow-on two-hour uninterrupted nap). The guidance also notes a Sailor’s workday should not exceed 12 hours in a 24-hour period, or eight hours of continuous work, except when required by operational tasks. As important, leaders are charged with training Sailors to take advantage of protected sleep periods.

 

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“The intent of the policy is to provide specific direction to achieve optimal crew endurance, performance, and safety,” said Rowden.

The policy codifies and consolidates several years of CNSF guidance regarding individual readiness, confidence and competency principles, waterfront briefings to ships in fleet concentration areas, and training sessions at Surface Warfare Officers School Command. The guidance is founded upon exhaustive research conducted by the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) on more than 1,300 Sailors at sea through a 16-year period, and expands upon CNSF’s guidance promulgated in September via the Circadian Rhythm implementation message.

“It’s a culmination of efforts that started years ago to better manage Sailor fatigue and increase our Sailors' individual readiness, toughness and resiliency,” Rowden said. “It meets one of the recommendations from the Comprehensive Review, but it’s also part of our long-term effort to study and implement circadian rhythm watchbills and shipboard routines.”

Seizing upon the effort that has been ongoing in the Surface Warfare community for more than a decade, Rowden directed cruisers, destroyers, and amphibious warships to implement circadian rhythm watchbills and shipboard routines by Dec. 20. Smaller platforms, such as Littoral Combat Ships, Mine Countermeasure Ships, and Patrol Coastal Ships have until Mar. 31 to implement the policy.

"Warfighting and professional, safe operations at sea continue to be my top priorities," Rowden wrote in his guidance to the Surface Force in the September message. "Circadian rhythm watchbills and shipboard routines will help produce well rested Sailors who are better warfighters, shipboard operators, and engineers... I expect all of you to continue to maintain our high standard of warfighting, training, and readiness throughout this transition."

Following the release of the circadian rhythm implementation message, and leading up to the formal instruction release, CNSF and NPS representatives visited fleet concentration areas in the United States and overseas to discuss implementation of circadian rhythm watchbills and routines. Waterfront leaders and Sailors were able to ask questions and gain better insights on how to transition their ships and staffs.

One of the main benefits of this policy, as shown by NPS research, is better-rested Sailors are more productive and more resilient to mental and physical stresses. COs operating with Sailors who are not rested are ultimately conducting high risk evolutions with impaired Sailors. This policy gives the CO a tool to manage Sailor fatigue.

Efforts to enhance crew endurance, performance, and safety will continue to be a focus of CNSF and NPS leadership. These partnering organizations will develop additional training materials and tools, collect data to fill knowledge gaps and evaluate new watchbill routine proposals, and enhance channels for sharing best practices and lessons learned.

“Every day, we owe it to our Sailors and their families to explore opportunities to mitigate risk where we can – from immediate daily fundamentals to instituting complex organizational change,” said Rowden. “This policy goes directly toward protecting our most vital asset, the men and women serving aboard our surface warships.” Surface Warfare Magazine

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