Peace Time: January 17, 2003


The U.S. Navy is finally facing reality when it comes to tradition. The navy, like the other military services, cherishes tradition for very practical reasons. The seemingly odd, to civilians, things that military people do are learned from wartime experience. Training and operating methods that work are learned the hard way. The ones that didn't work got a lot of people killed. But a lot of the traditions are not really all that useful, and the navy is now making an effort to separate the useful from the deadwood. Using Operations Research techniques (that the navy itself pioneered during World War II), the navy is examining a lot of what it currently does, and is finding better ways to operate. One of the more obvious (they are always obvious after you find them) items is the use of boots for running during sailor boot camp. The running is done for physical conditioning, as there is little long distance running to be done on board ship. The boots, it was found, have no shock absorbency and as a result about two out of a thousand recruits suffers foot and leg injuries that interrupt their training. By using running shoes (something the other services have been doing for some time) the injury rate was reduced by some 60 percent. Changes in how sailors operate on ships comes more slowly, as it is always dangerous to make changes in peacetime that might prove disastrous in wartime. This has been discovered many times in the last half century, as there have been no major naval battles and few small ones. But so much new technology is piling up and the navy has to adapt to it or risk falling behind.


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