Is It Really News That Sailors Complain?

2014 Survey ReportSorry about the headline. When I first saw the results from the 2014 Navy Retention Survey, it was the first thing that went through my head. I probably should have gone with “Evidence points to sailors disliking long deployments, says Jones, Nelson, Farragut, Jellicoe and Halsey.”

The study found that sailors are unhappy with deployments, workloads, and the possibility of pay and benefit reduction. Imagine that.

“Sailors are most likely to leave uniformed service because of a perception of increasingly high operational tempo, poor work/life balance, low service-wide morale, declining pay and compensation, waning desire to hold senior leadership positions, and a widespread distrust of senior leadership, all of  which erodes loyalty to the institution,” the survey states.

The survey was announced in May and the results were worse than expected. Sailors expect longer deployments and have a negative view of work-life balance. On the whole, the survey paints a dismal picture of advancement and retention for both officers and enlisted men. Morale is a problem and distrust of senior leadership is an ongoing issue.

Retention in the Navy has always been problematic. Long deployments with extreme working hours underway, privation, and separation from family and friends can wear on the strongest emotions and create hardships for any sailor, but this survey, which is unofficial, illustrates that not enough is being done.

Sailors complain. We complain about hours, deployments, work, food, dating and everything else. Being cooped up with a couple of hundred other people for months at a time isn’t the greatest experience in the world. As Samuel Johnson said, “Being in a ship is being in a jail, with a chance of being drowned.” Even with the advances in communication, the feelings of abandonment and loneliness can be extreme.

The Navy is studying the findings of the survey and working on key initiatives to confront the issues that are important to sailors.

“Returning authorities to commanding officers, compensating our sailors for longer deployments and reducing administrative burdens are all efforts in work that will help further increase trust, balance and stability across the fleet,” stated Navy spokesman Cmdr. Christopher Servello.

The manner in which the Navy addresses these issues will be important. Making deployments shorter and the workload lighter would be a fantastic start… if it can be done without affecting the operational readiness and capabilities that the Navy has to have. Asking young men and women to voluntarily separate themselves from friends and family means that these sailors should be treated with respect and decency.

The Navy has already put them in a position that most people couldn’t do. Asking them to do it longer and faster with less compensation and less support from the chain of command is a recipe for disaster.

But, when push comes to shove, when the United States needs its sailors, they will be there. Just remember; sailors complain. It’s what we do.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the opinion of the writer and do not reflect the policies of this website or organization.

Matt Towns
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Matt Towns

Matt is a former military journalist who spent 10 years in the US Navy. He served in various posts during his career, including a couple of deployments on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). After leaving the Navy, he worked in management for a number of years before opening his own businesses. He ran those businesses until 2012 when he chose to leave the retail industry and return to writing. Matt currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to the US Patriot blog and other websites about political affairs, military activities and sailing.
Matt Towns
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1 thought on “Is It Really News That Sailors Complain?

  1. Great article! One of the sayings we always had on the ship was “Don’t worry until we STOP bitching” Who could expect us to not complain under such conditions. We will always show up for the fight, though we may not be happy about it!

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