MANAMA, Bahrain — In a room with some 300 E-6 and below sailors, only about a dozen raised their hands when the head of the Navy’s 21st Century Sailor office asked if they were familiar with his posts on the Navy’s official blog site, Navy Live.
This lack of familiarity with the office has been a common theme in Rear Adm. Sean Buck’s discussions with sailors Navy-wide
Buck, the first director of the 21st Century Sailor office, is in the second month of a six-month worldwide tour to promote the office to sailors — few of whom appear to be aware of its existence.
“I realize by talking to sailors around the fleet that none of you have any idea who I am, what this office is, and the fact that it exists,” he told a crowded room Thursday at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
The office, established last year, is responsible for helping sailors with a wide variety of challenges. It encompasses programs dealing with such matters as sexual assault, sexual harassment, suicide-prevention, fitness, and alcohol and substance abuse.
Though some servicemembers may regard 21st Century as just another program or campaign in a vast array of them, Buck says that is not the case.
“This is meant to be the umbrella one that will have legs and stick around and endure, Buck told Stars and Stripes. “I am out on this campaign to advertise what my office is, what we do and why we exist,”
He said his office aims to look out for the complete health of sailors — physical, social, spiritual and mental — by coordinating the Navy’s various programs and efforts.
However, online efforts to build awareness of the office have not been as effective as Navy officials had hoped, leading buck to adopt an old-fashioned approach — all-hands calls where he asks sailors directly about the best way to communicate to them, especially the junior ones.
Buck said he’s learning on his worldwide tour that Facebook may not be the best marketing solution. He said a sailor told him that “all you old people stole Facebook from young people,” eliciting laughter and nods from the group of mostly young sailors in the room. “I’m looking for ideas on how I can best communicate to you,” he said.
When Buck asked who uses Vine — a mobile app for sharing seven-second videos — nearly all 300 sailors in the room raised their hands.
“I will do much better to advertise what we provide to you as resources ... I realize I need to broaden the efforts in a big way,” he said.
Buck said the biggest issue on his agenda is the prevention of sexual assault. “It’s a nuclear hot issue,” he said, praising the Navy’s progress but acknowledging that there is a long way to go.
Buck told sailors his “number one goal” in combating sexual assaults is reducing the number of alcohol-related incidents throughout the Navy. Seventy percent of sexual assaults are associated with alcohol misuse, according to Buck. “I’m convinced if we reduce ARIs, we will have a significant impact on reducing all that other destructive behavior.”
After meeting with various groups of junior and senior sailors in Bahrain Thursday, Buck went on to visit ships out to sea in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.