The Navy's Next Fix For Sleepy Crews Could Be… Rose-Colored Glasses

Analysis
Master Chief Sonar Technician Lou Wills, Center for Information Dominance (CID) Corry Station senior enlisted leader, keeps a close eye on a Sailor who is manning the rails during the CID Corry Station change of command ceremony June 26, 2009, at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
U.S. Navy

It’s been a rough year for the Navy, especially the forward-deployed surface fleet. Reeling from four underway mishaps that claimed the lives of 17 sailors in 7th Fleet alone, the service enters 2018 resolved to improve safety fleetwide — which that means addressing sleep deprivation among overstretched crewmembers.


Related: Amid 7th Fleet Turmoil, Sailors Open Up About The Navy’s Silent Threat: Sleep Deprivation »

And that could mean government-issue tinted spectacles for shipboard watchstanders.

That’s one novel fix the service is looking at, according to an analysis yesterday by USNI News. “Based on initial testing,” USNI’s Ben Werner writes, “Navy researchers think wearing specially tinted glasses for an hour or two before bedtime can make falling asleep easier.”

The idea — which could be especially helpful to all those poor operations specialists in the ship’s combat information center — “is to address sailors’ ability to fall asleep after working shifts at computer screens or in artificial lighting,” Werner writes.

That’s because exposure to artificial “blue light” produced by digital screens inhibits some of humans’ natural sleep mechanisms. So even after you shut ’em off, those infernal displays are keeping you more awake than you should be. (Your smartphone manufacturers already know this; it’s why they include a “night mode” to reduce the bluetones emanating from your little timewaster in the wee hours.)

The Navy is the lead agency responsible for all the DoD’s safety-glasses requirements, so the service spent much of the past year playing with inexpensive red-brown tints on existing spectacles — which can block out up to 70% of blue light bouncing in a sailor’s direction. Tests are ongoing, but Nita Shattuck, a top sleep researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, said in an April news release that “the results are very promising so far.”

Mind you, making sailors see the world through rose-colored glasses isn’t the Navy’s only new action on sleep issues — or even its most significant, long term. Last month, Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, the commander of all surface forces, pushed out a new “Comprehensive Fatigue and Endurance Management” guidance to the fleet recommending seven hours of sleep a day for sailors “under ordinary circumstances underway” — a laudable step forward, but also a challenge for a sea service where extraordinary circumstances underway seem increasingly common.

It’s that challenge that’s leading the Navy to look at incremental, lowest-level fixes like tinted glasses. Speaking as a former operations specialist myself, I like the idea… though I’m also skeptical of wrapping sleep-enhancing spectacles around the head of an already-groggy sailor halfway through a turn on the electronic warfare console.

But the Navy already knows that. The glasses, the service conceded in a press release, would be worn only “an hour or two before bedtime,” not all the time, “since people need to be alert on the job.” Don’t worry: Nothing ever happens in that last hour or two on the midwatch, right?

Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra

Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.

However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:

Read More

You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.

Read More

A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.

Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.

"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."

Read More

Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.

Read More
Protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019. (Reuters/Thaier al-Sudani)

With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Read More