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NPS Crew Endurance Team travels to USS Paul Hamilton to install and assess innovative rack curtains to enhance shipboard habitability

NPS Crew Endurance Team travels to USS Paul Hamilton to install and assess innovative rack curtains to enhance shipboard habitability

In ongoing efforts to improve the health, performance, and readiness of the Navy warfighter, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Crew Endurance Team has been working on ways to improve Sailors’ work centers and berthing compartments. These initiatives include the development of enhanced rack curtains in berthing that reduce light, minimize temperature fluctuations, increase privacy, and reduce noise levels. Better berthing conditions may not seem to be all that important for a Sailor’s performance. However, studies have shown that better sleep is linked to improved alertness and morale, superior physical performance, and increased cognitive effectiveness. The extra minutes of sleep that come with better sleeping conditions may mean the difference between a well-rested and alert Sailor and one who struggles to stay awake on watch!

Testing of the advanced rack curtains began in January 2020 as the NPS Crew Endurance Team embarked the guided missile destroyer, USS Paul Hamilton DDG60, to study the crew during deployment. While underway, the crew will install 300 pairs of the newly designed rack curtains, replacing the standard-issue curtains that are currently used on almost all USN surface combatants. These new curtains, in addition to being made from thicker and heavier government-approved fabric, can be laundered and have interior pockets that provide convenient storage for the crewmember. Once the new curtains are installed, magnets are placed inside the pockets to reduce movement at the bottom of the curtain, ensuring additional privacy and further reducing light from outside the rack.

crew endurance study

In order to measure the effects of the intervention, 50 crewmembers -- of varying rank and specialization, in differing berthing arrangements across various ship locations -- have volunteered to participate and wear “sleep watches” for the 3-week study period. The NPS team will compare the quality of sleep received by Sailors while using the old and new curtains.  In addition, light and temperature monitors have been installed inside and outside of the participant’s rack to quantify any changes in environmental conditions. Finally, participants will fill out questionnaires to provide feedback on their experiences with both the old and new rack curtains.
“It is amazing to see how much progress the Navy has made toward improving crew endurance. These new curtains bring us one step closer to meeting the goal of well-rested Sailors performing at their optimal levels,” says Dr. Nita Shattuck, the NPS Crew Endurance Team Lead.  

Good habitability conditions are one of the vital pre-cursors to providing the Navy with alert and effective Sailors. Combining sleeping conditions that improve quality of sleep with work schedules that optimize and protect crewmember rest, will ultimately result in more vigilant and resilient Sailors and a Navy better able to respond to the challenges posed by an increasingly complex world.
Many thanks to CDR Mark Lawrence and the outstanding crew of the USS Paul Hamilton for participating in this study.

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