Monday, December 15, 2008

"Psychological Officers" - Submarine - Part 2

In our prior posting, we asked if psychologists have ever been associated with submarines.

Actually, one instance is well documented:

Benjamin B. Weybrew, PhD — Psychologist from the U.S Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory was one of the technical and scientific riders aboard USS Triton (SSN-586) during her historic shakedown cruise, which would be the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe (code name: Operation Sandblast). The sub departed New London on 16 February 1960, returning after 84 days and 41,500 nautical miles, on 10 May.

Operation Sandblast's missions included determining habitability, endurance and psychological stress of tremendous importance to the U.S. Polaris program and the infant space program. Obviously, many other subs, including Seawolf (SSN-575) had performed earlier endurance and stress missions with scientific riders. Were any of them psychiatrists or psychologists? As rumor has it, yes.
Because of the nature of the duties and responsibilities of each person in a submarine, the psychological fitness of applicants for submarine training must be carefully appraised. The objective is to elicit evidence of tendencies which might prevent satisfactory adjustment to submarine life. Among these are below average intelligence, claustrophobic tendencies, lack of motivation, unhealthy motivation, history of personal ineffectiveness, difficulties in interpersonal relations, lack of adaptability, or personality disorders. source

Triton's CO during the circumnavigation was none other than Capt. Edward Lattimer Beach, Jr. Capt. Beach wrote the Foreword for The ABC's of Stress: A Submarine Psychologist's Perspective by Benjamin B. Weybrew; Praeger Publishers, 1992. Beach said:
Once under way, with a crew that had not yet been informed what they wereabout, everything was totally different. Now the problem was to keep the crewon their toes, maintain a high level of activity, avoid boredom, and keep thingson a high plane of motivation. ...Despite some media "hype,"we are not all that different from normal average people, but we do have awonderful instrument that few truly appreciate, and we do know how to use it. source
The contrast between the characterizations of submariners is one only a psychiatrist might fully appreciate.
Getting back to the 'Psychological Officers' - mystery dolphins, remember these were first seen in the 1970s, well after the Seawolf and Triton endurance tests. Notice which badge contains the acorn (oak nut):

The 1970s produced many secretive submarine initiatives, especially in the boomer fleet, but no headlines like the circumnavigation. Moreover, by 1970, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had landed on the moon with Michael Collins orbiting above during the Apollo 11 mission.

More on submariners, psychologists, psyciatrists and space travelers next time.



At 15 December, 2008 21:52, Blogger JWG said...

Ya.. in the early days of the FBMs you would have to be checked out by a shrink prior to getting into a sub program. This was in the 60's and the 608 class program.


At 16 December, 2008 00:36, Blogger reddog said...

I took a test in Sub School, that the questions seemed to be lifted directly from the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Index.

I lied about not torturing the puppies.

At 16 December, 2008 07:27, Blogger rick said...

The USS Triton was such a facinating looking boat. Really neat... and huge....


Post a Comment

<< Home