It's been a turbulent year for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan. Responsible for the defense of much of the Western Pacific including South Korea, two of its destroyers were involved in separate deadly collisions during the summer, with heavy loss of U.S. life. Both vessels were later found to have poor records, failing to fulfill key training requirements, something that raised serious questions about the safety and readiness of American warships in the Pacific.
Last week it emerged that another vessel based in the Pacific, guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh, is suffering from a disastrous morale problem. The Shiloh is equpped with Aegis missile technology, potentially vital in intercepting any ballistic missile launched by North Korea. According to surveys obtained by the Navy Times however, only 37 percent of the ship's crew felt motivated to give their best efforts to the mission in November 2015. Only 31 percent trusted their leadership to treat them fairly while 35 percent felt proud to be part of the Navy. Additionally, the share of sailors reporting working stress went from 53 percent in March under Captain Morris to 83 percent under Captain Aycock.
One of the sailors surveyed commented that "it's only a matter of time before something horrible happens" while another said that "I just pray that we never have to shoot down a missile from North Korea because our ineffectiveness will really show". Perhaps most disturbingly, one of the crew described the vessel as "a floating prison". It also emerged in August that one of the Shiloh's crew members went missing, presumed overboard. After a massive search conducted by the U.S. and Japanese military, he was found hiding in the ship's engineering spaces after seven days. The results of the survey and the long list of catastrophic incidents involving ships from the 7th fleet are sure to raise serious concerns about the U.S. military's readiness and ability to respond to a North Korean missile launch.
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