Sailor issues were on the docket at the annual unclassified gathering of the Silent Service submarine force and industry representatives in late October, from the expanding number of female submariners to the integration of women to rising concerns about resiliency of junior sailors in the fleet.
Leaders discussed new approaches to handling stress and mental health and their planning as enlisted women enter the submarine fleet over the next year. Some highlights: Leaders from around the fleet discussed issues of leadership, mental health and the arrival over the next 12 months of enlisted women in the fleet.
Here's what they had to say.
A submariner is medevaced from their sub every every 14 days for mental health issues, an issue the Submarine community is trying to tackle through better access to mental health care, the Atlantic Fleet's top enlisted bubbleheadsubmariner said Oct. 22.
Mental health issues account for about 30 percent of the unplanned losses — where sailors who have to leave the fleet for reasons other than normal rotation or temporary assigned duty -- are due to mental health issues, Force Master Chief Wes Koshoffer said.
It's a trait that is pronounced among the millennial generation now populating the lower ranks, with most losses among sailors E-1 to E-6, and one that requires the sub force to think differently about how to lead the new generation in the silent service.
"I'm a fan of millennials all day long: They are smart, capable, driven — they are getting the job done," Koshoffer said. "But there is a flaw in the system, and that's this millennial phenomenon that the reaction to discipline, failure or rejection, generally [elicits] a response disproportionate to what you would expect."
Setbacks and challenges can cause tumult, even suicidal thoughts for younger sailors. Getting Koshoffer said the problem is pronounced during normal events in a sailors' early career, whether that's problems in their personal or professional lives.
"A first breakup with a girlfriend, maybe they fail a qualification board and they've never failed anything before ... and the first words out of their mouths are 'I'm going to kill myself.'"
Koshoffer said The force is trying to get ahead of the problem by improving crisis lines and making sure sailors aren't stigmatized for reporting mental health issues, an important step towards lowering the Navy's suicide toll. giving sailors better access to health care in a crisis, while giving them inroads to getting back to the force.
"We cannot rewire an entire generation, but we can adjust, we can change the environment," he said.
Fleet areas now have an The fleet has an embedded mental health professional who on the waterfront now and worksed with chaplains to better address the issues.
"We've trained ourselves on how to react, we don't overreact," he said. "We take them off the ship, get them help ... and when we get the 'go' signal from a mental health professional, we get them right back in the force instead of overreacting and having them as a loss forever."
Koshoffer said 95 percent of the unplanned losses in the fleet were among E-1-E-6 sailors.
Women on subs
The first four enlisted women passed the intensive basic enlisted submarine course Oct. 16, Koshoffer said, bringing the planned integration of enlisted women on submarines this year one step closer.
The women will join the Blue and Gold crews of the guided-missile submarine Michigan, where berthings are being modified to accommodate them. berthings modified to accommodate them.
In the wake of the integration efforts, The sub force is reviewing its policies around relationships between submariners, Koshoffer said, citing a few couples who met in "A" school and who are now in advanced training together.
"The sum total of the plan to integrate enlisted women into submarines, we are revising our instruction that was — no kidding — 49 pages long of excruciating detail on what you wear on the treadmill and how you manage the head. The instruction just oughtaught to read: We will treat each other with dignity and respect because we are professionals.
"We have a fraternization policy and until we cross those lines, proceed."
The videotaping of women officers undressing in the shower on board the ballistic missile submarine Wyoming was alluded to during the junior officer panel.
Lt. Cmdr. Krysten Ellis, a supply officer who served on a submarine, told the audience that she thought the Silent Service submarine community could absolutely integrate enlisted women but that there would almost certainly be setbacks are likely.
"The sub force has always been able to adapt," Ellis said. "Obviously things happened when women were integrated. ... When enlisted women integrate, they'll have a plan, they'll execute it and some bumps will happen. They'll recover from those bumps and good things will happen. I don't have any doubts the sub force will be able to adapt."
Naval Reactors controversy
The selection of Adm. John Richardson to be the chief of naval operations has been a sore point in the retired submarine community, who were concerned that his leaving the eight-year Naval Reactors job after just three years sets a precedent that could undermine nuclear safety. who was pulled from the eight-year job of heading Naval Reactors after just three years.
If e old hands argued that if NR becomes a landing pad for rising four stars, the thinking goes, then the Reactors boss could be thinking about follow-on military commands instead of overseeing the Nuclear Navy and its instead of a terminal billet who can focus solely on the effective administration and furthering of the Navy's nuclear enterprise, it could compromise the fleet's largely spotless nuclear safety record.
At the conference, That dissatisfaction reared its head during the question and answers session with new NR head, Adm. Frank Caldwell. Oone audience member asked Adm. Frank Caldwell, the new NR head, if he would going to serve his entire term so he "won't have to worry about his fitness reports or any of that BS."
"I think the answer to that is the Navy and the nation sees value in this eight-year tour," Caldwell replied. "There is a lot in this program that is significant, and there is value in having continuity of leadership. And I think what's been indicated to me is a commitment to preserve this as we go ahead."
Also during the answers, the Reactors boss said the force was looking at upping its capabilities against surface ships, by adding an anti-ship missile.
"I think its something we need to consider and move out on," he said. "We are looking at that and we are taking some steps to deliver that to the submarine force."