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April 21, 2014

News Briefs April 21, 2014

Navy OKs changes for submariners’ sleep schedules

The U.S. Navy has endorsed changes to submarine sailors’ schedules based on research into sleep patterns by a military laboratory in Connecticut.

With no sunlight to set day apart from night on a submarine, the Navy for decades has staggered sailors’ working hours on schedules with little resemblance to life above the ocean’s surface.

But the scientists at the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory concluded submarine sailors, who traditionally begin a new workday every 18 hours, show less fatigue on a 24-hour schedule.

The first submarine to try the new schedule on a full deployment was the USS Scranton, led by Cmdr. Seth Burton. He said he found during the seven-month deployment that the more consistent sleep pattern made up for any effects of working slightly longer shifts. AP

U.S. weighing military exercises in Eastern Europe

The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday. The exercises would follow Russia’s buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine and its annexation last month of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in recent days has said the U.S. is looking for ways to reassure its NATO allies of its strong commitment to collective defense. The Pentagon’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a statement April 18 that American officials are considering a range of additional measures to strengthen air, maritime and ground readiness in Europe.

Ground exercises in Poland and Estonia would last about two weeks, but such exercises would continue off and on over time, the official said, and other locations in Eastern Europe would be considered. The official was not authorized to discuss the plan by name because it has not been made final and requested anonymity.

No specific date for the deployment of an Army company, which usually consists of 150 soldiers, has been set but an announcement is expected next week, the official said.

Kirby’s statement about additional measures didn’t offer specifics. Some of those activities will be pursued bilaterally with individual NATO nations. Some will be pursued through the alliance itself, he said.

April 17, Hagel met at the Pentagon with his Polish counterpart, Tomasz Siemoniak, and told reporters that they had identified new areas of military-to-military cooperation, including special operations forces, air forces and additional military exercises and training, as part of their discussion of closer defense ties. AP

Air Force to change testing for missile operators

Changes are being made in the wake of a cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, including the way the monthly certification tests that missile launch officers must take are graded, the nation’s land-based nuclear force commander said.

Dozens of missile officers have been implicated in cheating on the test gauging their knowledge on how to operate the missiles.

The scandal is one component of widespread troubles in the nation’s nuclear forces documented by The Associated Press that also include failed inspections, low morale and burnout and a drug investigation that involves three intercontinental ballistic missile launch officers.

Air Force leaders fired several senior leaders at Malmstrom last month and ordered a review of operations at all three bases following the cheating revelations.

Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein leads the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles surrounding three bases in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. He told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle April 18 that reforms are underway to ease the pressure on airmen who aim for perfect scores on the monthly tests.

Previously, airmen needed to score 90 percent or better on the tests to keep their certification. Now, the Air Force is moving to a pass/fail system.

That should relieve the perception by many that the airmen had to score perfectly to avoid reprimand or to advance their careers, Weinstein said.

You don’t have to be perfect in testing, and you don’t have to be perfect in training, he said. But you do have to be perfect when you are doing the mission.

Weinstein said he is also pushing cultural changes to empower junior-level officers and others to take on more responsibilities, instead of waiting for orders from senior officers.

The changes are being made based on 350 recommendations from junior officers and airmen who participated in an Air Force study.
Weinstein said he believes morale is improving as a result. AP




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Air Force photograph by Joe Davila

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