Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Are Eight Hour Watches The Way To Go?

According to this Navy Times article, the Navy is studying if the current 6 on - 12 off watchstanding cycle practiced by Submariners is detrimental to our health and well-being, or if we should shift to something else. Excerpts:
Studies show that even without clocks and sunlight, human biology is best suited for 24-hour cycles. Moving to 18-hour days can create conditions similar to jet lag, said Lt. Christopher Steele, the lead researcher for fatigue issues with the Submarine Medical Research Laboratory in Connecticut.
“It’s like flying to Paris every day,” Steele said of the 18-hour day. “Unfortunately, that results in unpredictable rhythms for alertness.”
Steele and other researchers from his laboratory plan to go on a long-term deployment later this year to study submariners’ response to various sleeping patterns.
Senior Navy leaders will not make any decisions until the study is complete...
...A submariner’s typical day at sea revolves around six hours on watch, six hours of other duties and six hours of sleep.
Previous, shorter studies aboard the ballistic-missile submarine Maryland and the attack submarine Pittsburgh during the past year suggested that dividing a 24-hour day into three eight-hour shifts resulted in better performance, Steele said.
Some more complex three-day cycles were also examined — stacking six-hour shifts, then taking larger 12- or 24-hour blocks off for sleep — were not as successful, Steele said.
Without optimal sleeping patterns, sailors can show lower levels of alertness, limited reaction times or irritability, Steele said...
It looks like they didn't study the effect of "Vulcan Death Watches" practiced during ORSE workups:
Officials with the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory are studying three work-cycle options for submariners:
• 18-hour day: Six hours on watch, 12 hours off (current practice).
• 24-hour day: Eight hours on watch, 16 hours off.
• Three-day cycle: Six hours on, six off, six on, 12 off, six on, six off, six on, 24 off.
So what do you think? On the boats I was on, officers mostly stayed to 24 hour schedules, except for EOOWs during ORSE workups -- and they got every scheduled midwatch off as the "Midwatch Cowboy" gave them a break -- so I never really did the 18 hour days for long periods. Did you notice any detrimental effects from this schedule that weren't otherwise explainable by the normal vagaries of submarining? Do you think this study will result in any changes in the way the Submarine Force does business?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel fine. 18 hour rotation sure beats the Surface Fleet's "stand your watch around a normal workday" routine. That will really do you in.

Grumpy Old LDO

4/26/2009 6:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did 10 years on attack boats as an officer, and to this day it confounds me that the 18-hour day was ever conceived of, much less enforced to the point of becoming doctrine. It was extremely hard on my body, and having some basic understanding of circadian rhythms made it a mystery to me that the submarine force had ever latched onto the concept.

That the 18-hr day still exists strikes me as being something as an indictment that the submarine force isn't nearly as clever as it thinks. I shake my head over the fact that someone apparently needs a study to prove how dumb it is.

If anyone knows the story as to how this - to me - obviously dumbfuck idea was originated I'd love to hear it. To my way of thinking there's no need for a study.

4/26/2009 6:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on a boat that was doing the 8 hour watch cycle for a little bit and the crew was loving it.

Until ORSE board come on and pointed out that the regs said you could only do that in the engine room for short durations and exceptional circumstances.

I'm guessing the 6-hour watch practice came along because Rickover thought 8 hours was too long for people to maintain focus on a gage that doesn't move.

4/26/2009 7:56 AM

Blogger Free The Nucs said...

Eight hour watches would just plain blow. You're almost guaranteed to need a pee / chow break somewhere in that 8 hours, which means bagging your offwatch buddies. Sure, they *should* be up anyway, but what if they're not? What if they're in the rack because of drills/training/field day when they're oncoming? The cooks are still going to want to do four meals a day, so meals won't line up with watch relief.

And, as others have mentioned, eight hours is just too long to expect someone to pay close attention to their watch. If you compare jobs with similar expectations in the civvie world (like the lady who stares at the x-ray machine monitor in the airport), they're limited to four hours at a time.

Finally, you can't compare normal day-to-day life with life underway. You're going to be up for days at a stretch sometimes; switching the schedule around isn't going to compensate for the poor leadership that is the real issue.

4/26/2009 8:14 AM

Blogger Don the Baptist said...

I remember even 4&4/Port & Starboard sucked until I got into the rhythm. Any rotating watch cycle takes several days for your body to get used to.

4/26/2009 9:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

6 Hour watches suck when you’re Port and Starboard. Stood NAVSUP with the ANAV on a 9 hour rotation so that at least turnover coincided with meals (sort of). I did this for several WESTPACS.
8 Hour watches would be easy to implement.
Six hours on, six off, six on, 12 off, six on, six off, six on, 24 off. Now that would kill the COB on the Berthing Bill.

4/26/2009 9:21 AM

Anonymous Veemann said...

Having done various watch routines one both skimmers and on the boat I think looking at an 8 hour watch makes sense. Why not try to get into a routine that we function with the rest of our lives. I would personally need to increase my ERLL tour frequency.

Loved being the mid watch cowboy both aft and forward, particularly when the watch was book ended by a trip to PD.

Never got used to the workday routine topside. Always felt that I was changing my routine every day, which I guess it was. Of course satellite tv, near-continuous internet connectivity, etc. helped lessen the burden.

4/26/2009 10:01 AM

Anonymous ex-721 ELT said...

This is all well and good, but I think that they are forgetting that the lack-of-sleep issue and 18-hour days underway are just some of those badges of honor that go with being a Submariner.

In a former life, I was ERS on the evening watch, then switched over to do all the ELT stuff on most of the midwatch because we had no underway-ELT (our Boat didn't do that pussy s**t), then during the morning watch a certain special component in a certain special location decided to fail during a certain special evolution - I had just climbed half-dead into the rack - didn't even get a change to drift off to sleep and was racked out by C.O. to get the work package rolling and supervise the job - all in all would up being a 48-hour day with no rest (and that certainly wasn't the first or last time for that).

I'm sure every person that has worn Fish has a story like that, or worse. That's what makes us different - we do what we have to with what we've got, and we may bitch and complain and be half-dead on our feet, but we get the job done.

Later in life, being able to have the discipline to keep myself awake and force myself to think clearly has paid off immensely in the civilian power sector and as a Volunteer Firefighter . . . I get that from my years on a Boat. Sure, I may have knocked a decade or so off the back end of my life, but I'd just be chasing nurses around the retirement home, anyway ;-)

Long story short - they can do all the granola, touchy-feely studies they want: they aren't going to change the nature of service onboard a submarine - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

4/26/2009 10:05 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

The Mexican Pandemic?

The fear is the Mexican flu is going to dominate everything we do for the next few years. They are talking about a mortality rate of 3 to 7%. I know ships and especially submarines are incubators of ship mate gets it when the can is closed and then everyone gets it. I never caught as much flu's and colds as I did in the submarine service.

So how is the Navy and the submarine service going to deal with this...the military in generation.

Look at the 1919 pandemic it comes in waves...with the second wave being the worst.


..."I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City and sadly, the situation is far from "under control". As a doctor, I realize that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths."
Yeny Gregorio Dávila, Mexico City

..."I'm a specialist doctor in respiratory diseases and intensive care at the Mexican National Institute of Health. There is a severe emergency over the swine flu here. More and more patients are being admitted to the intensive care unit. Despite the heroic efforts of all staff (doctors, nurses, specialists, etc) patients continue to inevitably die. The truth is that anti-viral treatments and vaccines are not expected to have any effect, even at high doses. It is a great fear among the staff. The infection risk is very high among the doctors and health staff.
There is a sense of chaos in the other hospitals and we do not know what to do. Staff are starting to leave and many are opting to retire or apply for holidays. The truth is that mortality is even higher than what is being reported by the authorities, at least in the hospital where I work it. It is killing three to four patients daily, and it has been going on for more than three weeks. It is a shame and there is great fear here. Increasingly younger patients aged 20 to 30 years are dying before our helpless eyes and there is great sadness among health professionals here."
Antonio Chavez, Mexico City

4/26/2009 10:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


You go sit in the corner for your rediculous outburst. There will be no further meaningless discourse from you on any subject.

That means Absolute silence Mikey!!

4/26/2009 10:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three section duty on a six hour schedule is not bad except for drills, maintenance, field days, training...

When not in training/workup mode, it was quite doable.

On the other hand, the best I ever had underway was four section as EWS and were working up for an ORSE. After the ORSE, it was the least sleep deprived I ever was while underway.

I have also been on 8 hour rotations during startup and testing of a new core while in the ship yard. The actual watches were still about 6 hours as the other two were taken up with pre-shift briefs and very controlled ordering on watch station turn-overs. All in all that was not too bad.

Eight hour watches underway would suck though for the very reasons someone else has pointed out.


4/26/2009 10:44 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

The six hour watch was conceived because the four hour watch was thought of as too short and the eight hour watch as too long for reasons discussed in postings above. The only part of six hour watches that I did not like was when I stood port and starboard. After the third day, it was a debate whether to sleep or eat and generally sleep won out. I certainly would not want to spend eight hours in maneuvering or on a periscope ( or watching the TV on the Virginia Class). The best watch rotation I ever had was at the end of a six month WESTPC with a 'gold dolphin' wardroom and we stood four section watch aft and five section watch forward. Actually, we found the five section watch too long because you did not have a steady schedule and got out of touch with the pulse of the sub with twenty four hours off.

4/26/2009 10:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

6 or 8 hours is irrelevant when considering circadian rhythms. Not sure what anon @ 06:10 was referring to, but ANY schedule that has a person awake during "normal" sleep hours has detrimental affects on the individual. Some handle it better than others. Having done the 18 hour day boat schedule and now doing the 12 hour "watch" schedule at a commercial nuke, I'm not sure which is worse. Wait, yes I am - even with 12 hour watches, I don't have to go to sea and get to go home after every watch.

4/26/2009 11:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a crazy idea - 4 hour watch, 4 hours work, 4 hour watch, 4 hour work, 8 hour rack.

That's 24 hours, provides shorter watches for greater alertness, removes the need for food and head reliefs. During the work time, of course, you can eat and what not.

We had 4 hour watches at prototype for staff, and it worked fine, so NR can't have huge issue with it.

4/26/2009 11:40 AM

Anonymous Veemann said...

I would amend my previous comments to say that, when possible, the 4 section watch worked the best.

Unfortunately, that rarely works for enlisted personnel and with the way the Navy is going wrt crew size I highly doubt that will ever be possible.

4/26/2009 11:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Six patrols on SSBN-619B 1964-67 on 6 X 12 watch cycle. I always wound up very-very tired with the disrupted sleep cycle. On last patrol I was standing COW on 6 X 18. Boring!!! In fact the entire SSBN thing was pretty boring.

On the smoke boats I served on it was always 4 X 8. Much more normal work-sleep cycle for me. My routine was 16 hours watch-work- awake, 8 hours sleep.

I spent a week underway on HMAS Onslow S-60 in 1972 when she was running the Barking Sands Range. Those guys stood 2 X 4. I was told that RN/RAN believed that more than two hours on watch resulted in watch fatigue and lack of attention to duties. I suppose it makes sense if you routinely operate in high traffic areas around the British Isles. BTW, the boat had no crews mess, crew berthed and messed in the same spaces. It was an interesting week underway with them. A number of the Chiefs and PO's had served on submarines in the RN, and the skipper was on loan from the RN as the RAN was only several years into restarting a submarine force.

Sailing as a CivMar with MSC on AOE and two AE's it's always 4 X 8 for watchstanders. I still prefer it. Inport watches for ABW is 8 X 16. Every third watch would be 8 X 8, then back to 8 X 16 for three watches, and so on. This allowed a watch section in port to have an uninterupted 32 hours off. Problem was, it was at the end of three days of 00 to 08 watches and all you wanted to do was sleep.

Keep a zero bubble..........


4/26/2009 12:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

we did 38 days of 8hr shifts for ER steaming at EB. All Nukes agree that SUCKED Balls! No Chow breaks, almost impossible to take a head break, and the command wouldnt allow the "Underway ELT" who was qualified EWS to relieve anyone, not even another ELT who was standing erll. What a Joke! I will take my 18hr days, and enjoy it. After 6hrs in the hole, I dont care anymore!

4/26/2009 1:09 PM

Anonymous Anon E. Moose said...

For those interested, here are two Naval Postgraduate School theses on the subject of submariners and sleep:

SUBMARINERS by Christopher M. Osborn (2004)


4/26/2009 1:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished my first sea tour. 18HR days were perfectly fine on the boat. Actually, we generally worked closer to 8 hours and then had 10 off. When it comes time to prep for the next meal, along with cleaning up after the last one, time gets away from you. That's not a complaint, that's just the reality of how our system worked...and yeah it was effective.

For everyone else, I've noticed 18 hour days work just fine. Besides, this is not skimmer dream land where they feel the need to change shit up all the time. I've got a feeling the boats will keep it that way out of consistency and effectiveness.

A CS3(SS) guy, soon to be A CS2(SS) guy

4/26/2009 1:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

PCO ops: my first underway as a young nub-o and pretty much the defining moment in my career where I decided this was not going to be a career. 8 on/8 off; mostly on the scope, being micro-managed by 8 O-5's. Then I got to spend my 8 hours off watch (make that 6 after pre-watch briefs and post-watch debriefs) in training, lining up for battery charges (at least one SCRAM wasn't a drill), trying to get checkouts, collecting data, critiques, and did I mention training?

4/26/2009 2:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also not sure where the people are going to come from to support anything like a 24-hour off, which is absolutely nuts.

6 on watch, 6 as off-going (maintenance etc) and then 6 as on-coming, which usually was in the rack unless something crazy was going on. ELTs on my boat spent their 6 on watch and then spent the next 6 as the ELT, then 6 in the rack. From what I hear, manning is even lower than it was in the 80' sure, let's do some studies and come up with some solutions that aren't even possible to implement, just to make everyone feel *that* much better.

4/26/2009 2:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've done the 8-hour 3-section rotation continuously for a period of a couple of weeks. We did it for SCC ops (formerly PCO ops) when the forward guys had to pretty much all be port/stbd with the modified battle stations and FCTP all the time. Back aft, we just stayed 3 section, but went with the 8 hour rotation.

You would think it would suck, because you're standing two extra hours of watch. We all did at first. Then you start to get used to having SIXTEEN hours off (work permitting) every rotation instead of the measly 12.

The extra hours in the down time more than makes up for the extra watch time. We all agreed. We all wanted to keep it up after SCC ops.

Squadron said no, for the EDM issues brought up earlier.

Aside: I think VDW has been "studied" plenty. I bet all they had to do was say the words, and the dagger looks they got told them everything. Heh.

4/26/2009 3:39 PM

Anonymous Hampton Plankowner said...

Someone is always going to have to stand the midwatch no matter what, so better to have it rotate on 18 hrs, between meal and head breaks 8 hrs is to long with people being anal about watch reliefs, glad im out and get a good nights sleep every night

4/26/2009 3:44 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

The Mexican Pandemic?

According to CNN, I put the military on a swine flu alert.


4/26/2009 5:36 PM

Anonymous SJV said...

Mr. Mulligan, why don't you take a vacation to Cancun? Please drink the water.

I think the real sleep problem is inherent to the force. My sleep problems were more related to training and maintenance than the schedule In earlier days, things were even worse. Be thankful for the DC/DC converter.

The navy should stop spending money on studies of sleep patterns and spend the money on new components that have extended maintenance cycles.

4/26/2009 5:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Six hour watches are just fine as long as you are four section. There is time for sleep, time for work, time to relieve your buddy who needs to attend a meeting you don't or whatever, and still feel human and even get a little time to yourself.

Three section watches are manageable on mission when the off-watch duties are restricted as long as your division is fully manned. Add in the pre-watch briefs, meals, an hour of clean-up and a modicum of personal hygiene time and you are still working an 8-10 hr day before getting time to hit the bunkie. Which means 6-7 hrs of sleep if you are lucky, which is okay for most people.

3 sections watches in a workup or inspection period is taking the edge off of our Sailors because it isn't a true rotation the way it is on mission. The off-watch demands & oncoming bonejobs happen daily. 3-4 hours of sleep are what is usually expected, with frequent periods of going 30+ awake & then trying to crash for a solid 6. Not conducive to good watch standing or enforcing high standards.

Port & Starboard 6's for anything longer than short periods is accepting that standards will slip in almost every category. I spent half a deployment P&S and all the admin, CPS, etc I was responsible for went to hell after the first 2 weeks, and I was in "defensive rack" mode which still left me a zombie much of the time.

I did do P&S 9's as Sonar Supervisor (w/ a brief relief for a 10 minute power chow) that worked out alright for rest most of the time, but that last hour or so could get a little hairy when it comes to alertness depending on what happened during the previous off time (drills, training, etc).

It always amazes me how the COB, CO, XO, & the "day-shifters" forget how brutal a traditional 3 section rotation is to all the hard-working crew (blue shirt or khaki).

We've all just sucked it up because that's how life has always been.

There aren't enough racks onboard or $ for the manpower to put everyone 4 section though...


4/26/2009 5:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few alluded to it before, but it's the substandard 688 berthing capacity that really prevents most of the 'outside the box' watch rotations (and many straight up ones like the STSC just above mentioned.

And from what I understand, neither seawolf nor virginia class are any better

4/26/2009 6:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not the on-watch period that people have issue with, but how your time is managed off-watch.

When people start managing 30 minute blocks of you time then something is wrong.

4/26/2009 6:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having my first tour of duty on a surface ship where you were up all day and then doing watches at night, I’ll take the submarine way of 6 on/12 off any day.

Before I retired from enlisted active duty I did 4 full tours on submarines, so spent a lot of time doing 6/12 until the end when I was in 4-section DOOW. I then used my G.I. Bill to change careers, ending up with the National Weather Service (NWS). Some of its operational aspects are very similar to those in the Submarine Force. The one characteristic similar to watch standing on boats is the rotating 8-10 hour shifts that operational weather forecasters endure. I found that my submarine past blended well with my new work schedules. It wasn’t as regular as 6 on and 12 off, but you have to be able to shift from days to mids, to swings and back within a few days. It is tougher as you get older.

Our NWS office is one of the few that have a Circadian Lighting System. This system is computer controlled to operate based on the worker’s schedule. So when it’s 4 AM and you are hitting “the wall” the system prevents that by ramping up the brightness of the full spectrum lights over your workstation. It fools your body into thinking it is noon. Your fatigue vanishes. Towards the end of your shift the lights tone down to dim. When you go home in the morning you can usually fall right off to 7-8 hours of sleep if you darken your room.

The NWS did not install it everywhere due to its cost. Even though I’ve been retired for over 15 years now, reading this blog has revealed to me that not much has changed in submarine routine. So it might be too difficult to adapt the Acadian Lighting to submarine use. But if it could be somehow, it might improve sleep cycles and increase alertness. ~(SS), Ret.

4/26/2009 7:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will only add one additional thought. 6 hours on watch as OOD, JOOD, or any other section tracking party member when doin the highly classified things we do in the highly classified places we do them taxed me to the limit. If you added 2 hours to that time you are asking for trouble. After 6 hours of sheer terror you need the downtime!

4/26/2009 8:40 PM

Anonymous Xenocles said...

Mike, posts that are completely OT are for your own blog. If you think Joel would be interested in posting about your topic, e-mail him. 'Nuff said.

As to watches, I think six is a pretty good balance. I could usually go the entire watch without a head break (unless the meal didn't agree with me), but I'd be crossing my legs at the bell. We could go shorter than that but for two reasons. First, there's no way we have the manning to support that. Shorter watches mean you get back on watch sooner unless you add more sections. Second, I have a feeling that quality would actually go down, at least forward. It would take me a while to actually get into the situation, and by throwing more turnovers into the mix all you're doing is resetting your situational awareness more often. Aft is a bit more steady-state, but you still have to deal with reason one.

Still, it's awesome to have kickouts on the watchbill when you can afford them. There's a world of difference long-term between three and three-and-a-half section.

4/26/2009 8:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure enjoyed the fact that my old 637 class had the urinal closet just forward of maneuvering. Heck, if you were careful, you could even make it in there as the midwatch SRO. Otherwise, it was time to break out the Portable San Tank.

4/26/2009 10:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

The Mexican Pandemic?

According to CNN, I put the military on a swine flu alert.


4/26/2009 5:36 PM

Did you forget your daily meds Mikey? You literally are completely fucked off your ass aren't you boy?

What city do you dwell in?
I would gladly call the nearest ER for you in order for you to be picked up immediately and evaluated. There is no fear Mikey. A heavy shot of Thorazine and the warmth & security of a straight jacket would be most theroputic.

Wouldn't you agree with the humbled masses of this board?

4/26/2009 10:10 PM

Blogger Bigbill said...

I did 117 days straight on the 18 hour cycle while serving on the beautiful french butterfly fish. I found it no different from any other length of time. The only difference was the length of time it took me to re-adjust once we returned to port. I made a few 0200 runs to Denny's.

Since leaving the submarine world in 2000, I have done 3 CVN deployments. My last two were on CVN 71 for OEF and OIF. On those two deployments we were the night carrier so we ate breakfast at 1800, lunch at 2400, etc. It was ok as long as you didn't look outside. I was standing OOD and it really messed with my internal clock.

As far as asshats comments about the swine flu, a sealed submarine is a petrie dish that grows, gets everyone sick, and then it's done. On a CVN, new people arrive all the time so there is always something to catch. Most of the flu cases have been mild and can't compare to catching a stomach virus that has you sleeping in a shitter stall.

4/26/2009 10:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Otherwise, it was time to break out the Portable San Tank.LOL. I had a 'gozinta' & a 'gozouta' bottle for awhile. I never sent out the aux. operator with both at the same time...


4/27/2009 2:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve contemplated 8 hour watches many times during the Midwatch. I’m all for it for the most part.

The Up Side:
1. I think having 8 hours of sleep at a time would really help morel.
2. A well rested watch section will be a lot more productive on watch.
3. Getting a Kick was great (if you had the manning to support one), but sleeping for 12 hours really messed up your sleep patterns for the next day… 8 hours per day every day would normalize things.
4. Spending more time in the “Time Machine” is a good way to make underway more tolerable.

The down side:
1. Unless you were 4 section, you would be stuck on watch in the same time period every day. I don’t know about you… but I would rather starve than eat Midrats followed by Breakfast EVERY DAY!
2. That’s it… I could only think of one down side.

I don’t buy the argument that 8 hours is too long to be on watch… I’ve done it many times, (Maneuvering watch followed by your watch followed by some WSRT) after 6 hours on watch, 2 additional hours go by pretty fast.

Very Respectfully

4/27/2009 4:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My second to last Poseidon Detergent patrol started as P&S SRO refit with OI-62. The patrol was an ORSE work-up, P&S EO and Port & Report BCE. My last patrol was three section. It was HEAVEN.


4/27/2009 6:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I came off the boat, my circadian rhythm was screwed up pretty bad. I would lie awake at night for hours on end, and go for 2 or 3 or 4 days without sleep in-port. I had to visit the doctor because work started to suffer.

They suggested that I start running-- I thought that sounded like a good idea. Three jogs a day (8 to 15 miles total) daily started to work, but if I missed a lunch time jog for whatever reason, then I couldn't fall asleep. And then 3 am rolls around, and I'm afraid to sleep because I might not get to work on time, so I just get up and go to the boat (or screw off on the computer).

Alcohol came to mind, but was such a terrible idea that I never started down that path.

The doctors then suggested Trazadone which was the best thing since sliced bread to fall asleep. One of those things at 10pm, and I was fast asleep by 10:20. About 4 month on this stuff once I was off the boat was all it took.

I'm all for anything that helps anyone avoid the perils of the 18-hour day. It screwed me up for a long time and kept me on the 'mid-watch' when I was off-duty, in-port. I'm sure its a somewhat underestimated problem among other submariners in port.

4/27/2009 7:27 AM

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4/27/2009 7:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the good-old-fashioned way to adjust from the underway schedule (or from a 24-hour duty day) back to normal?

You get off das boot, take a nice long shower. Then, you drink until you can't stay awake any longer, then you go to sleep.

It worked great after day 7 of swings as a prototype instructor in Charleston too, we would just go to Buddy's Bait & Tackle shop (Cold beer, live bait) and drink till the sun came up...since they never closed.

4/27/2009 8:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

6x12 works just fine...providinfg the XO isn't dreaming up new schedules, plans, drill packages, and other make-work that eats into your 12. The 8x16 leaves you with the problem of static watches. Unless you randomize the drill schedule you always end up with the same guys on watch, the same off-going, the same on-coming. Unless the casualty decides to ALWAYS start on the 08-16 watch your kinda boned as to response.
Even after 6 years of retirement the mere mention of Vulcan Death Watch makes me want to hunt you down and force feed you to a small annoying rat-like dog. long as you stick to a sane pattern and make sure the crew can get a good 8-9 hour equalizer ever 2nd or 3rd 18-hour set you can run that way indefinately.
578, 666, 721, 758

4/27/2009 8:52 AM

Blogger Gnomeself Be True said...

4-section?!?!?! Wow, how cool that would have been!
Yea, 6 on, 18 off is ideal. You're not on watch too long and you've got time for maintenance, field day, drill, training, meals, etc... and still fit in sleep.
Can't believe it'll ever happen on a wide spread basis though.
I liked 6 on, 12 off for the most part. 8 hours is too long to sit a sonar watch, even rotating stacks.
Port and Stupid sucked pretty badly, but did serve as motivation to get the next supervisor qualified.

4/27/2009 8:57 AM

Blogger FT2(ss) said...

8 hours on watch, 10 hours on quals, 2 hours drilling, 6 hours down. I could have lived with that.

Though 8 hours on sonar would probably have driven me to the brink of insanity. I still have dreams every now and then I am in the shack listening to things.

Though some of the guys I knew would have gotten 16 hours in the rack every off watch.

4/27/2009 9:15 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Among other little things this would probably require a "PCR" and chow relief for every watchstander every watch. Or..., or...

YNC(SS), USN, Retired

4/27/2009 9:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Business first: SR Mulligan, the watchbill has you as Port and Report mail buoy watch. Report to the forward escape trunk in the proper uniform.

Topical comments: No matter what rotation you end up with the "off" portion is almost always anything but. Prep for ORSE and the myriad of other inspections, evolutions, maintenance, training, etc can wreck havoc with any watchbill.

No matter what rotation you have something will always wreck the plan. Sierra Hotel at its finest.


4/27/2009 9:39 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having monkeyed with a few schedules and being stuck with a three section crew, I always thought that we did the vulcan death watch dance in the wrong order. I would have liked to try a 24-hour scheme of 3, 6-hour watch periods followed by two 3-hour watch periods like this; 06-12, 12-18, 18-24, 24-03 then 03-06. A five watch period day could also be contrived around 6's and 4's like this; 06-12, 12-18, 18-22, 22-02 then 02-06. Never got to try it out though -- hard to punch through hidebound tradition.

4/27/2009 11:06 AM

Anonymous Dean said...

I've got a suggestion from the way back machine. I qualified in 1978 on the USS Tang (SS-563). the CO's were big fans of 4 hour watches that they learned from officers that served in WWII. You stood two watches a day with two 8 hour off watch stretches, typically working one and sleeping another. On watch you rarely needed a head break and staying alert wasn't a problem. Even bridge watches weren't too long. We had some officers that came off boomers who whined about wanting to go to six hour watches, but the CO's had us stay with 4. Even doing weekly ops there wasn't a problem with the transition back to a shore side schedule. When I went on to boomers it was a standard 6 on 12 off which never seemed to work nearly as well. One patrol we finally got to 4 section OOD watches and it was wonderful, other than being the midwatch OOD. every day, and of course drills were always in the morning or afternoon watches.

4/27/2009 12:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

6 on station, 6 on watch and then 6 to eat, sleep, and piss. That right there consists of a normal day. It works, It's why fuck with it?

Some fat assed jet setter in the pentagon is looking for a MSM or a LOM before their tour is over by trying to change a perfectly good system that works. We are not going to 8 hour rotations...what would be the point? It doesn't work, not for our lifestyles.

4/27/2009 3:16 PM

Blogger kwicslvr said...

8 hour watches for nucs would be fine if they allowed them to go forward every now and then and get a drink, take a pee or get a quick bite to eat. The plant sure isn't going anywhere anytime soon and you have the ERS and EWS who can cover that station until they come back. Only issue this might have is for the RO. He would still need a qualified RO to relieve him.

This could be called "Hello, welcome to the real world of nuclear power!"

While they are at it get rid of the hourly log readings. Change it to once or twice a shift.

Unfortunately NR lives in the dark ages and has no idea how to run things effeciently.

4/27/2009 3:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I qualified ships toward the end of my first FBM patrol. My second patrol was spent as a qualified sonor and then torpedoroom watchstander. I was an FTG3 then FTG2 back in the days before FBMs has such a thing as FTOW.

My point; I had it really good. From the time we left Holy Loch on my second patrol, I was 6 on, 12 off for my next three patrols. And to me, 6 on meant 6 hours on watch and 12 off meant 12 hours spent eating, watching movies, reading JRR Tolkin, listening to Pink Floyd, playing acey duecy, playing guitar, and most important, sleeping.

Ever heard the term - Slept Out?

Had to do some occasional PMs and spent some time as the repair parts PO. Minor inconveniences which were offset when I went 4 section (6 to 12) in the torpedo room for my last two patrols.

Like I said, life was good....

4/27/2009 3:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an announcement:

I have the Swine Flu. My "partner" just returned from an all boys resort in Mexico and was feeling ill. I caught the flu from him, as well as Anal Clap.

I will be in quarantine for a while and may not be able to blog with you guys.

Take care,

Mike Mulligan

4/27/2009 6:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is good news.

4/27/2009 6:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Mikey Mulligan,

You finally did it, didn't you?
You were told what might happen if you continued to hang around the downtown truck-stop motels late at night.

Now Mikey, NCIS has already reviewed the motel's video tape. Mikey, you've been seen dressed as a fat little school girl and entering several motel rooms. Your sexual deviance and homosexual tendencies will be discussed openly during morning quarters. Didn't you realize any of this when you let your trucker buddies take turns bending you over the the foot of the bed?

Mikey, we're not surprised that you let this happen, but it's definitely shameful. Perhaps this experience will teach you to be a little selective for now on.

4/27/2009 8:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you'll host a comment from an AF
weenie - This had been studied to death 30 years ago. There's no doubt
that regular hours produce best crew
alertness, performance, and health.

It did'nt noticeably change the way
the AF did business then, and I'd be
amazed if it's much different now.

But, maybe the Navy's different :)


4/27/2009 8:18 PM

Blogger Srvd_SSN_CO said...

Most of the pro's and con's have been well aired here, but let me turn to practicalities.

First, there is no way to carry the number of people needed to go four section. If you get to the numbers, everyone is hot racking.

Second, 8's work at prototype because there are 5 crews. This allows the rotation to shift so all sections get training. Shipboard, you would need to shift the rotation once in a while for training. Let's say you want to run drills three days in a given week. Hmmm. Who is providing drill support on morning and swings? when do the mids guys run drills?

Practicality is a bitch. Gonna feed meals only three times a day? Does day shift never eat lunch? Do people like not eating for an 8-hour stretch more than they dislike 6/18?

Here's an idea: get NR to approve a pilot program and have a boat volunteer to test it. Better yet, get two boats and try it for a month underway.

BTW, I would NOT do it, even if it were fleet norm, for extended ops at PD. No Frakkin' way.

4/28/2009 3:50 AM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

Underway ELT was the best--

My typical schedule:

Wake up at 0340.
SC/BKG 0345-0415.
In sink 0430
Breakfast 0535
Dailies - 0600-0730
Sleep - 0800-1700 (next day)
SC/BKG - 1710-1800
Dinner - 1800
In sink 1915
Dailies 2030-2300
Midrats 2300
SC/BKG- 0000
In sink - 0120
Dailies - 0230
Sleep 0400-1700 (Next Day)

Was always tough being underway ELT!

4/28/2009 6:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep Former ELT 2JV - you pretty much violated about every sample frequency there is! Well done...typical SMAG...

4/28/2009 11:32 AM

Blogger SSBN617 said...

Kind of had to laugh about this subject. I did 4 years on SSBN, mostly 3 sections 6 hour watches.

6 on, 6 hours "off going" time was maintenance and also engineering casualty assistance team. So as a minimum it is actually 12 on 6 off, vice 6 on 12 off as it is normally referred to. In any case, your 6 hours "on coming" time was available for sleeping IF, IF IF it did not coincide with ANY of the following:

6 Hours of Field day, 1/week
6 Hours Ships Drills 1/week
6 Hours of Engineering Drills 2/week
All Hands training 1 hour/week
Engineering Dept Training 1 hour/week
M Div training 1 hour/week
ELT training 1 hour/week
EOOW/EWS training 1 hour/week

So that is about 30 hours of regularly scheduled BS every week right there. If any of that goes on during your on coming time you are SOL. Now how about 2 or so times a week of WSRT or "weapons system readiness test" from 1-3 hours each could happen at any time.

Due to the confluence of events mentioned above I have done 40+ straight hours with NO sleep at all on several occasions.

4/29/2009 7:34 PM

Blogger MM1/SS said...

What gain are there to be made for switching to a 24 hour day aboard Subs?

I see none. Just a bunch of even more tired guys going apeshit for 8 hours at a time.

The people who are Pro-24 are the Officers and Skimmers...basically people who have never experience the particular hell of being a Submariner. Or people who live in an isolated little bubble onboard (see some officers and certain cone ratings) and don't realize what a huge affect this would have upon the crew.

The people who are Pro-18 are the Submariners who understand a few realities about Submarine operations and deployments.

I've done the 4 hour crap. It sucks. The watchs don't align with meal hours, and you are on watch the same amount of time per day, just smaller increments. Not to mention you are now screwing the off-going guy who has to relieve so somebody can go eat in the middle of their watch.

BTW, for the little bitches crying about their circadian are in the Military. And after a few days underway, you circadian rhythms align to the 18 hour schedule.

When you return to port, the first week or so may suck in terms of sleep...but big deal. Your circadian rhythms will fix themselves to align with the normal 24 hour day in short order.

Whining about not being able to sleep, and medicating yourself because you cannot sleep...wah wah. Find another job.

This kindler gentler Navy is killing me. Certain things can be improved upon, and others suck because they have to. Not because of piss poor schedule or planning. Just the nature of the beast.

This whole thing smells like more crap that some Admiral thought up. There is always some high ranking prick looking to leave his mark...or find that next award

5/01/2009 2:38 AM

Anonymous ex-ETnuc said...

I always found the 6/18 schedule to be pretty easy, as I was able to adjust into and out of it fairly quickly. We tried the 4/8's thing, but on a nuke boat it was hard to get all the required training/work done with that kind of schedule.

I would definitely hate to try and stand an 8hr RO watch, especially after a set of drill watches. I used to drink about a 1/2 pot of coffee during watch if I was standing the 18-00 after a set of "Vulcan Death" watches. I'd be up to a full pot for an 8hr, and hoping not to get caught using the urinal in front of Maneuvering (on a 637 class)

5/01/2009 4:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

MM1/SS said...

BTW, for the little bitches crying about their circadian are in the Military. And after a few days underway, you circadian rhythms align to the 18 hour schedule.

Insomnia is a medical problem douche-bag. Just because it didn't screw up your circadian rhythm doesn't mean it didn't screw up the guy next to you. It's not a kinder-gentler thing, it's a sleep thing. And it has nothing to do with "doing your job" or "being in the military". Even ground-pounders in Iraq have a routine schedule, and don't have schedule like the following:

2 weeks TRE Upkeep (24 hours/3-sect), 2 weeks TRE prep (18-hr day), 1 week TRE (18-hr day)
3 weeks pre-deployment upkeep (24-hr day), 3 weeks deployment (18-hr day), 3 days In port (24 hour day), 45-60 days at sea, with drills (18 hr day), 10 days in port (24-hr day), 60 days on station (18 hr day), 14 days in port (24-hr day), 20 days screwing around with some other friendly Navy (18-hr day), 5 days in port (24-hour day), 20 days ORSE workups (18-hr days [could be 24 hours awake for periods]), 3 days of ORSE (18 hour days, awake for 65 of 72 hours), 30 days of in port (24-hour days, 2 section to support leave)

I'm thinking you are on a trident where its 72 days 18-hrs, 85 days 24-hrs.

It's not the 18-hr day that screws up a circadian rhythm, it's the constant switching back and forth.

5/02/2009 11:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about this 24-hour scheme with a 3-section crew:
2 on, 2 off, 4 on, 2 off, 2 on, 12 off
Meals would be every 4 hours.

5/02/2009 3:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back on 686 under the last CO, we did the following 4/4/4/6/6 non-Vulcan rotation:


Rules were that you could not touch the offgoing midwatch during the 08-12, only on-watch section training and on-going guys doing normal work. 12-16 and 16-20 were the "work" watches.

You had to schedule your training and drills efficiently due to the shorter day watches available, but I don't think I ever heard anyone bitch about that rotation.

5/04/2009 5:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The standard 3 section 18 hour watch rotation evolved for a reason. It's not perfect, but that's what Sea & Sub pay is for. It generally works until the Chain of Command completely forgets that not everybody is a day walker. That's when the CPO quarters should come into play. I've seen many CPO quarters Reset a single minded COB in the privacy of the Chief's Quarters. Those ORSE field day schedules can get plain stupid.

5/05/2009 10:10 PM

Anonymous Rich said...

8 hour wtches blow! Much like un-needed PMS, if it is not broke, don't fix it!

5/08/2009 8:54 AM

Anonymous Dick Pfister said...

I stood 22 of 24 hours as SRO one duty day when E-Div fucktards were doing OI-55. E-Div on my boat was full of butt pirates and feltchers.

5/15/2009 8:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

18 hour days really messed me up. I had trouble sleeping before the mid watch, which is when I really needed to sleep. One day, I slept normally through the evening, stood mid watch, and went to department and division training in the morning after watch. For some reason I couldn't stay awake, even though I had slept before the watch. I was standing up to stay awake and still was falling asleep on my feet. Everyone had a good laugh at my expense. During division training, a couple of the guys sat on either side of me to keep me seated. They were afraid I would fall and hurt myself or spill my coffee. Chief put on a really excellent lecture on the studies that had been done on fires in contained spaces like what would happen in a boat. Missed most of it. Bummer.
I think watches should be 6 on, 6 off with the third watch doing maintenance. Rotate regularly. I stood port and stbd lower level several times and the 6 hour watches were an easy routine to get into.

5/29/2009 2:11 PM

Blogger Jon said...

I was on a skimmer, and we had a rotation that has yet to be mentioned here...


Five on/ten off. Worked really well for 3 section duty. Schedule was something like this:


Yes, there is a four hour watch in there, but everyone would rotate through that as well, so it wasn't so bad at all.

12/10/2009 4:40 PM

Blogger evision said...

3/29/2010 2:18 AM

Anonymous Rachel said...

This will not actually have success, I consider this way.

9/24/2012 3:39 AM


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