Morale: A Really, Really Good Incentive


February 20, 2008: In an effort to retain the most skilled sailors, the U.S. Navy has been building barracks for sailors who have traditionally lived on the ship they were assigned to, even when the ship was in its home port. For junior (E-4 or below) unmarried sailors, who were stuck on the ship, this was no fun. Married sailors living ashore with their families, and hiring ranking single sailors could rent a place. The living quarters on ship, for junior enlisted sailors, are cramped. Meanwhile, sailors assigned to shore jobs live in quarters comparable to those enjoyed by college students in dormitories (private rooms, but shared kitchen and other facilities). It will be another 5-10 years before enough barracks are built for all of the nearly 20,000 ship bound sailors. Meanwhile, those still stuck on the ship at least see some benefit from the barracks ashore. That's in the form of less noise and activity in the ships berthing spaces while in port. For some ships, over two-thirds of the youngest sailors are ashore, in these new dormitories, while in port, giving those still on the ship more access to recreational facilities, and more mundane things, like showers.

This raised also the question; who lives ashore, and who stays on the ship? The navy quickly decided that the sailors who perform better should get the roomier accommodations ashore. This led to remarkable increases in performance by junior, unmarried, sailors seeking more comfort during the 60-80 percent of the time their ship is not at sea. There are numerous skills, and tests to measure them, that sailors can, or must, take. The draw of more comfortable living quarters has motivated sailors to an extraordinary degree, to learn more, take more tests, and do better on the job. This happened to such a degree that some NCOs think it would be a good idea if there were never enough barracks rooms for all the junior sailors. The desire to live off the ship, when in port, has turned into one of the best incentive program ever, and the chiefs (Chief Petty Officers who supervise sailors) don't want to lose it.


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