Recently, the juiciest rumor among the enlisted was that the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) allegedly told the demoralized crew of the USS George Washington to “lower your standards.”
This has become sort of a new mantra, replacing many fabled terms as “embrace the suck” or “if it ain’t raining, we ain’t training,” or even “we didn’t promise you a rose garden.”
Although there is no evidence the MCPON actually said that, (nearly all public speeches by branch leaders are recorded) the rumor spread like wildfire. However according to official Navy transcripts, the MCPON did say of the hardships, “What you’re not doing is sleeping in a foxhole like a Marine might be doing.”
What’s the story behind this?
The aircraft carrier, dry docked in Virginia, has suffered a string of suicides over the last year. Anonymous sources on the vessel have blamed the poor living conditions as a contributing factor. Many enlisted Sailors were forced to remain aboard the ship during seemingly endless repairs. This included constant construction noises, power and water outages, and a lack of a sense of purpose among the Sailors who felt “stuck.”
Those who lived off ship were burdened with extremely long commutes. At first glance, that may not seem like a big deal, until you ask yourself: how you would feel having to add an additional 2 hours to your daily commute… Both ways… Every day.
This all combined with what many called an extremely toxic work environment, that included reports of sexual assault, a lack of mental health resources, and an overbearing work schedule.
Plight of Boatswain’s mates and SEALs
The only difference between sailors on a carrier and sailors at seal team four is the attitude between them as teammates, because we both have shitty jobs. Where are the ABs in here? ABES? V2? Uh, longest hours, shittiest conditions, least vacation on the front end, least amount of recognition for the hard work you do. Um, and always last in the chow line. So, um, there’s no difference between that and being with a seal platoon in Columbia, hunkered off the side of a river in knee deep mud, um, doing real shitty work, they’re both hard to do. The difference is the camaraderie between them and understanding that everybody’s needed on the team and how we talk about that team mentality.- MCPON to the crew of the USS George Washington
“Lower your standards” may be the new “embrace the suck,” but the connotations are different. Troops are no longer being asked to endure for the sake of supporting large scale combat operations. So why are things still so bad for the enlisted?