'A Sea Change in Standing Watch' Wins SNS Literary Prize

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Adm. Jonathan Greenert at SNA Symposium: Photo credit USN

The Surface Navy Association (SNA) has presented its Literary Award for articles that address areas within Surface Navy or Surface Warfare and in 2013 it came to Capt. John Cordle, USN (Ret) and co-author Dr. Nita Shattuck for their article on watchkeeping and circadian-based alternatives.

'A Sea Change in Standing Watch,' published in the January 2013 issue of Proceedings, addresses the challenges and benefits of implementing a circadian-based watch schedule to improve the work-to-rest ratios of Sailors onboard Navy ships through two lenses; a Navy commander and a sleep expert at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).

Inspired by a Proceedings article in 2000 highlighting a crew divided in half with each working 12-hour blocks, and no stranger to fatigue as a career Surface Warfare Officer (SWO), Capt. Cordle explored various concepts and schedules to address the issue of sleep fatigue to improve morale. While in command of the USS San Jacinto (CG 56), his crew adapted a watchbill that fit the needs of the ship and individuals during a one-month training cycle.

"Everyone was in a stable 24-hour day, standing the same watch every day, and 9 hours off... to eat, sleep and PT," said Cordle. "The shorter watches... allowed for better focus and less fatigue."

Similarly inspired by SWO students at the NPS who boasted "you sleep when you are dead," sleep expert Dr. Nita Shattuck worked with her students on projects to see how to bring visibility to fatigue among the Fleet and what could be done to address it.

"The major challenge in any watchbill is how do we schedule work and rest for Sailors in a consistent circadian cycle with factors such as traveling through various time zones and individual accountability. How do we make Sailors more responsible about sleep and not spend rest time on social media or playing video games?"  Shattuck explained. "The culture of sleep deprivation within the military as a whole, especially with combat stress, is a known issue."

One study conducted on the USS Jason Dunham continues to yield results for its crew. Cmdr. David Bretz has noted "We are still using the 3/9 rotation in most of our sections, and I just heard today several Sailors saying how they could never imagine going back. It has a number of benefits. The challenges still remain, but I think they need to be explored." 

The SNA Literary award was presented during the recent Awards Luncheon at the SNA National Symposium in Washington, D.C. For more information visit: http://safetycenter.navy.mil/

Related picture: Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert speaks to active duty, retired and civilian members of the surface warfare community at the Surface Navy Association (SNA) 26th Annual National Symposium.

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