Surveys find major morale problems in Navy ship

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Despite three different surveys of the crews of a Navy ship that found significant morale problems pointing directly at its commander, the Navy did not remove him initially.

The Navy Times obtained three command climate surveys featuring hundreds of pages of anonymous comments from sailors revealing widespread morale issues aboard the USS Shiloh, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser based in Yokosuka, Japan. Two Navy officials told CNN that the information reported from the surveys was accurate.

According to the obtained surveys only 31% of the sailors who responded to the survey said yes to the prompt: “I trust that my organization’s leadership will treat me fairly,” compared to 63% under the previous commanding officer. Additionally, only 37% agreed with the statement “I feel motivated to give my best efforts to the mission of the organization,” compared to 69% agreeing to the statement under the previous leadership.

The Navy officials added that the poor results of one climate survey caused Navy leadership to increase the frequency of which such surveys were conducted to help prompt the commander, Capt. Adam Aycock, to improve his performance.

One of the officials said they could not explain how Aycock managed to retain command in the face of the poor survey results. Aycock served as the Shiloh’s commanding officer from June 2015 to August 2017 and is now at the US Naval War College. [emphasis mine]

That this guy was not relieved after the first survey suggests some significant rot in the higher Navy management above him.



  • Garry

    I like the idea of command surveys; officers can fool their bosses and peers, but the troops always know how good or bad they are. I would think that they key would be to have confidence that one’s response will be anonymous. I fear that, like many other “report cards,” a few higher ups would freak out upon seeing some extreme remarks; no matter how good the officer or the climate he/she creates, there are always a few malcontents who consider the officer to be the antichrist. In the civilian world one can often fire such malcontents (they also tend to be substandard performers), but that’s much more difficult and time-consuming in any government job (probably easier in the military than in just about any federal job, but usually time-consuming).

    The main point of that article is interesting: the use of bread and water as punishment. Even in the 80s this was considered archaic, but I’ve been told that when applied to the right situation, it is sometimes very effective in getting the attention of a young troop at the crossroads.

    As an aside, I often used Correctional Custody Unit to gain the attention of a young troop at the crossroads, after his section chief and platoon sergeant had done all they could. Basically it’s a temporary return to boot camp. Out of the 6 or so troops I sent there, half came back as new men I could rely on, and the other half accelerated their downward spirals and were discharged within months. I’m told that bread and water can have similar outcomes.

    Bread and water can only be applied aboard ship, only to E-1 to E-3, for up to 3 days, after a medical checkup. My military law instructor told us a story of being aboard ship, walking by the brig (jail cell on ship), and seeing a young seaman carefully removing raisins from bread, under the watchful eye of the Master at Arms (shipboard cop). My instructor asked what was going on, and the Master at Arms replied, “Seaman Smuckatelli’s punishment is bread and water, not bread with raisins and water, so I’m having him remove the raisins.” Was this a minor violation of the 8th amendment?

    According to the article, the Captain of this ship loved to punish with bread and water, often for minor offenses. The survey results contain some good remarks, and it sounds like this Captain was a micromanager. When my section chiefs and platoon sergeants asked me to punish a troop, I always asked them what they had done to handle the situation. If I had any doubt, I referred the case back to them, and told them to exercise more leadership, and if that didn’t get the troop’s attention, then they can kick them back up to my level. It’s always better to handle things at the lowest level possible, and this Captain sounds like he didn’t believe in that.

    Unfortunately, I found that tools available to the junior leader became more and more restricted when I was in. For example, it became forbidden to give the malcontents the crappy jobs that someone has to do, such as cleaning things (the punishment had to be designed to fix the deficiency, and assigning crappy jobs is not considered a measure designed to fix a troop’s status as an immature turd who needs an attitude adjustment). After I got out, the Marines even banned pushups as punishment.

    I see where assigning crappy jobs and making troops do pushups can lead to abuse, but they can also be effective tools. I ran into a few very minor incidents where having the nearest NCO assign pushups was the perfect device to nip a potentially bad situation in the bud, often done while making light of the situation rather than using harsh tones. Outright banning lower level punishments instead of monitoring abuses just leads to chaos; if you take away lots of tools from junior leaders, a lot of problems that they can otherwise remedy become subjects of higher level punishments.

    If I thought a troop was potentially salvageable I never wanted to take him to Non Judicial Punishment; having an NJP on his record would usually make him ineligible for re-enlistment when the time came. And many of my top performers were troops who had less than stellar pasts and later matured; I would take those guys over most guys with squeaky clean records.

    I’m dismayed that they let this Captain keep his ship for more than 2 years. I’m all for giving younger troops the opportunity to mature before I do something that will effectively end their careers, but senior people don’t deserve as much rope; there’s less chance they’ll mature, and if they do, they’ll do real damage in the meantime. It sounds like that’s what happened here; the Captain was very authoritarian and never gave anyone a second chance, but his bosses ironically decided to give him more chances.

    “Never give a bum a third chance”

  • wayne

    extremely interesting input!

    D’Onofrio shuts up the drill-instructor, (all the way…)

  • Garry: Most educational. Thank you. My only complaint is a writer’s complaint. You use the word “troop” to refer to a single soldier. This I find very annoying. Why not use the correct word, “soldier?”

  • Garry

    As someone who makes (part of) his living as an editor/proofreader, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know of that misuse. But like you, I realize that there’s a lot I don’t know about my craft, and I always try to learn from my mistakes; thank you for pointing it out.

    “Soldier” is for the Army; if I ever called any of my Marine buddies a soldier, I don’t know what I’d do once I picked myself up off the floor. I was looking for a generic term for a low ranking member of the military, and “serviceman” sounds too dry to my ear. Perhaps I should have used “sailor” when referring to the ship and “Marine” when telling my own sea stories.

  • Garry wrote, “‘Soldier’ is for the Army; if I ever called any of my Marine buddies a soldier, I don’t know what I’d do once I picked myself up off the floor.”

    !!! Well, I learn something new myself. I had no idea that a Marine would be offended by being called a “soldier.” Is “Marine” the only term allowed?

    This might actually explain the shift in recent years to incorrectly use the word “troop” for “soldier,” a shift that I have been baffled about.

  • wayne

    Highly interesting!

    I’m embarrassed to say, I know less about proper Military nomenclature, than I thought I did.

    So, what are the correct terms, for each branch of the military?

    (I thought a “corpsman,” for example, was specifically a Marine-medic.)

    Obama gets ‘corpsman’ wrong

  • wayne

    What is the protocol going on, as far as encountering a Medal of Honor recipient, in the clip below?

    NCIS – Medal of Honor clip

  • Garry

    Marines are called “Marine” (only after graduating boot camp; earning the title is a big deal, and before graduating they are called “recruit”)
    Army are called “Soldiers”
    Navy are called “Sailors” (even if not assigned to ships)
    Air force are called “Airmen” (even if not assigned to flight operations).

    There are informal names of endearment / pejoratives (in some cases the same word, but differing in nature according to who says it in what context). For Marines these include “leatherneck,” “jarhead,” “jarine,” and “devildog” (coined by German enemy soldiers in World War I).

    “Corpsman” is a Navy medic, whether assigned with the Navy or Marines. They generally are highly respected in a Marine unit, and inevitably given the nickname “Doc.” Some of them consider themselves Marines, and the more gung ho ones have a rift with their brethren assigned to navy units.

    I have found no completely satisfactory generic term for a member of the military, and it gets tedious to switch between the terms for the respective services.

    Wayne, it’s traditional for all ranks to salute a Medal of Honor winner. There are not many of them around; they are not handed out like candy, and many are awarded posthumously. There are many holders of the Navy Cross who probably would have been awarded the Medal of Honor had they died in combat.

  • Garry: Thank you for the terminology lesson. I should note that in ordinary use to the general public, “soldier” would still be the correct term. My desk dictionary defines it either as 1a. one engaged in military service; 1b. an enlisted man or woman; 1c. a skilled warrior.

  • Garry

    I should note that, other than a few misguided die-hards, Marines and other servicemen are not offended by being called the wrong term by a civilian (although they will often be quick to correct them); it’s an inside thing.

    I like a light-hearted rivalry, but sometimes people get carried away. I’ve always kept in mind that in the big picture, we’re all on the same side. Because of my Marine artillery background, at gatherings of service academy grads (such as career fairs) I find that it’s generally easier to make an instant connection with a West Point grad than with a fellow Annapolis grad that I don’t already know; we worked under similar conditions.

    Rivalries aren’t limited to service; it also exists between specialties. To a rifleman, everyone else is a “pogue” (soft, non combat), sometimes including machine gunners, who are often deployed a few meters behind the front lines. To an artilleryman, anyone who’s not infantry or artillery is a pogue. To a division clerk, anyone not in the division is a pogue. I always thought that was silly, but it does contribute to some aspect of unity.

    I’m not offended by anyone using “soldier” as the generic term for the sake of a general audience, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

  • wayne

    yes, highly informative.
    (totally tangential, at what point does a “boat” become a “ship?”)

    Ref: Medal of Honor-
    over 100 oral histories of recipients:
    -very well done & compelling.

  • Garry

    Wayne, when I was in, a ship was at least 100 feet long, everything smaller (and any submarine, regardless of length) was a boat.

    That convention wasn’t always followed strictly.

  • Edward

    wayne asked: “at what point does a ‘boat’ become a ‘ship?’

    That is a question I ask quite a lot, too. I do not get definitive answers, but my favorite definition is from a friend of mine, who likes to say that you can hoist a boat onto a ship, but you can’t hoist a ship. The implication is that the boat holds together during such a lift but that a ship is too large to have that same structural integrity. A submarine of any size is probably strong enough to be hoisted, just because of the pressure hull. Some boats may be large enough to hoist other boats aboard, so just because it can hoist a smaller boat does not make it a ship.

    I had to do yet another web search, but here is what I have found, this time:

    Wikipedia is, of course, definitive. As long as you aren’t looking for a single definition:
    A common notion is that a ship can carry a boat, but not vice versa.

    This may help, but I doubt it:
    The typical rule of thumb, according to the Naval Education and Training Command, is that you can put a boat on a ship, but you can’t put a ship on a boat.

    Finally, these guys must know something on the topic, because “marine” is in their domain name (if it’s on the internet, it must be true):
    Even though all vessels operating in the high seas are referred to as ships, submersible vessels are categorically termed as ‘boats.’ This is mainly because of the fact that in the earlier centuries, submersible vessels could be hoisted on ships till they were required to be used in the naval operations.

    Hoisting. The difference is definitely the ability to be hoisted onto a ship. Or not.

    Although everyone knows the difference between a ship and a boat, there are quite a few who often get confused between the two terms. Technically, there is a thin line between them and this often leads to a major confusion.

    If everyone knows the difference between a ship and a boat, why does everyone keep asking the question? I suppose it is because of that technicality, the confusing fine line between them.

  • wayne

    good stuff.

    At what point does a firearm, morph into a gun?

    History of Electric Boat

  • BSJ

    But what if you ship is indeed sitting on another ship? ;-)

    When I was in the Army, in the late 80’s mid 90’s, ‘Soldiers’ would get put on “Extra Duty” for disciplinary problems.

    This usually consisted of Buffing Floors until midnight in the HQ building. I don’t remember this treatment ever serving any useful function. The punishments were often the result of alcohol abuse or writing bad checks. And buffing floors until midnight for a week or two just left them sleep deprived, and even more of a “problem” during the regular duty day and then after they got off extra duty. Saw it time and again. Extra duty just lead to more extra duty until eventually they were given an Article 15 and then kicked out. But hey, the HQ floors were always extra shiny. And back then, shiny was very important to a lot of people…

    Off topic a bit:
    And some people want to bring back the draft! How are we supposed to keep up readiness with a bunch of people that don’t want to be there when it’s enough of a problem keeping the “Volunteers” in line?

    One of the many stupid things I often heard while I was in is that there are no “trucks” on base. The only “truck” was the ball on the top of the base Flag Pole. Of course almost every maintenance manual for a truck had the word TRUCK on the cover.

    Another one was that there were no “Guns” in the Army. You rifle was a WEAPON. And again Machine guns were called MACHINE GUN on the cover. And of course many people called our M109A3 Howitzers ‘Big Guns’ when they were indeed Howitzers…

    Hey you FNG go get me a box of Grid Squares!

  • Garry

    Buffing floors sounds like rock painting. For Extra Duty we would find useful things that nobody wanted to do, such as cleaning out grease traps at the motor pool. It takes some thinking to come up with good jobs for Extra Duty that are useful, but it can be a good tool for discipline.

    I shot the M109A3 at Artillery School at Fort Sill; in the Fleet Marine Force I shot the M198 and M101. My M101’s were from the 1950’s; a buddy of mine in our sister battalion had a M101 whose gunbook showed that it had been used in the battle of Iwo Jima! The Marine Corps doesn’t always use the latest technology.

    While you’re getting a box of Grid Squares, bring me 100 meters of gun line and 2 boxes of high angle primers.

  • Orion314

    When I was in the USAF in the 70’s , they used the word troop instead of airman , often.

  • Edward

    wayne asked: “At what point does a firearm, morph into a gun?

    Considering that there are non-firearm guns, such as staple guns, nail guns, paint guns, and BB guns, perhaps the correct question is the reverse: “At what point does a gun morph into a firearm?”

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