Looking down range

Third and Fourth Order effects.

Fancy military jargon for “unintended consequences”

Of course, being the military, we try to imagine the consequences of our actions so we can plan for them. But if you could imagine the consequences, they wouldn’t be “unintended” would they?

So there’s this interesting article in Navy Times.

Some shore commands in the Norfolk, Va., area report that up to 34 percent of their billets are filled by pregnant sailors, and commanders are complaining about a “lack of proper manning to conduct their mission,” according to a Naval Inspector General report.

The IG has asked Navy personnel officials to review the new rules for Navy mothers-to-be and consider the work conducted by each rating and how pregnancy affects a sailor’s ability to do that work.

I’m not going to throw stones at the underlying reason that “the number of women leaving deploying units to have children rose from 1,770 in June 2006 to 3,125 as of Aug. 1.” Lord knows that there will always be sailors who look for reasons to get out of going on deployment.

However, there appears to be an institutional “Get out of Jail Free” card that is going to have troubling after effects.

When sailors on sea duty become pregnant, they are transferred to shore-based commands that fit certain criteria, such as being close to a Navy medical center. The length of that assignment changed in June 2007, when the Navy extended the postpartum tour from four months after a child’s birth to 12 months. Combined with a nine-month pregnancy, that puts expectant mothers on limited duty for up to 21 months.

21 months. Think about that.

Now, consider normal submarine manning.

Underway, most watches are 3 section (almost all in fact). In port it doesn’t get much better.

Now, add into that mix a crew member who is sent LIMDU for 21 months. No fault of her own, work/life balance and all that.

What happens to the other guys who are in her watch rotation? Port and Stbd for 21 months (or until someone else qualifies the watch)?

What happens to the crew overall? Every body is important on a submarine. Everyone has a role when casualties or battlestations come around.

Are we going to plus up crew size to account for loss of personnel? My guess is “No” because it sends the wrong message. To do so would say, “We know you’re going to get pregnant, so we’re planning ahead.” Not quite good PR, not even a good policy IMHO.

So those left to work while others have a life are forced to shoulder the load. Get yer backs into it, lads, and keep a stiff upper lip. What happens to *their* quality of life? It goes to hell.

What happens when sailors have poor quality of life? They vote.

With their feet.

So what is probably being envisioned as a cure-all for manning deficiencies in the first place, actually exacerbates the problem by creating hate and discontent throughout the force.

I’m not saying we’re going to end up Australian (with more submarines than crews to man them), but I think you might see a decline in the number of people willing to sign up for follow-on tours; and the subsequent decline in resident knowledge that will accompany such a thing is no laughing matter.

But then again, there may be no issues at all. The fact that this article exists demonstrates, to me, that perhaps the Surface and Aviation folks (and the Navy at large) really haven’t gotten as good a handle on the “women on combatant ships” thing as they’d like you to believe. There appear to be some underlying issues that must be resolved before we attempt to experiment with the harshest of shipboard environments.

*** UPDATE: CRAP!! Totally forgot to tip the hat to the Phibian for the base article on Pregnancy (The CDR)

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12 Responses to Looking down range

  1. Sandy Salt says:

    I will be a truly sad day when the first CO/XO/COB/DH/DivO/LPO/Sailor complains to some Admiral about having people or being Port and Stupid because someone decided to exercise their reproductive freedom prior to a deployment or as soon as they arrive on the sub. Heck they could work it right they would never go to sea and then get out at the end of their tour.

    • fastnav says:

      That’s one of the questions I had.

      If they go LIMDU, does their shipboard counter stop?

      If not, things could happen as you say, and they spend a majority of a tour off the ship. What happens when they go back on a follow-on tour and they’re expected to have a level of experience that doesn’t exist?

  2. Kevin says:

    Well said. It scares me to think of the direction this is going.

  3. Dude, where’s my hat tip?!?

    [[[stomps off with mule-lip]]]

  4. virgil xenophon says:

    Gee, the art. referenced by Cmdr Salamander is really interesting considering that I caught holy hell over at his place for saying that it is EXACTLY because of things like this that women have only a very limited role to play and that their presence in general is mainly dysfunctional–whether it be ability to do the job, morale retention and recruitment–you name it.

    Yea reap what yea sow. So don’t bitch when it bites you in the ass in terms of readiness or anything else. God how I truly hate and despise the multi-culti “diversity” PC crowd and the gutless, spineless, Sr management/”leadership” in all the service branches who have evidently imbibed the kool-aide by the gallon. Pathetic.

  5. Acad Ronin says:

    Side issue: a consequence may be anticipated and yet be unintended. For example, physicians prescribe medicines knowing that some patients will have adverse reactions. The adverse reaction is anticipated but unintended.

    • fastnav says:

      I see what you’re trying to say, but I think you’re backwards.

      Once you start planning for that adverse reaction, it’s no longer unintended. By definition, when you do something that causes an effect (desired or not) it’s intentional.

      • Acad Ronin says:

        Have to disagree with you, fastnav, and agree with Niall. His example is even more powerful than mine. In both his example and mine, the doer has one intent, but accepts that his actions may have an adverse consequence that he does not intend but accepts as a necessary price. To argue against our examples makes the doctor guilty of manslaughter should his patient die of the adverse reaction, and the commander of the military action guilty of war crimes.

        • fastnav says:

          I can see your point. But my original point is that the military will try to foresee every possible consequence of an action and plan for it.

          but you can’t foresee everything…

  6. Niall says:

    One could say the same about collateral damage in war time.

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