US Navy Allows Sailors to Move Off USS George Washington After Suicides

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
May 3, 2022US News
US Navy Allows Sailors to Move Off USS George Washington After Suicides
Line handlers wait to help dock the aircraft carrier USS George Washington as tug boats work to move the behemoth at its home port in Norfolk, Va., on Dec. 20, 2002. (Michael Sandberg/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

The U.S. Navy will begin the process of allowing sailors to live off-ship following a number of deaths and complaints about conditions aboard the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, including three suicides in the month of April alone.

Most of the ship’s around 2,700 crew already sleep off-ship, with 422 crew living aboard. From Monday, around 260 sailors were eligible to opt-out of living aboard, with an additional 50 beds per week opening up thereafter, a Naval Air Force Atlantic official told ABC News.

Lt. Cmdr. Rob Myers, a Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesperson, confirmed the move with The Hill, saying sailors had started to shift to naval barracks-like accommodations on Monday, and that the process would continue “until all Sailors who wish to move off-ship have done so.”

“The Commanding Officer of USS George Washington has taken steps to provide an opportunity to every Sailor who is currently living on the ship to elect to move to off-ship accommodations at a local installation,” Myers said. first reported the plan after obtaining a recording of Capt. Brent Gaunt, the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier, making an announcement on April 28.

The move comes as the Navy acts to manage fallout after confirming the deaths of seven sailors from the USS George Washington over the past year, including four in 2021 and three in mid-April.

“The circumstances surrounding these incidents vary and it is premature to make assumptions, as some incidents remain under investigation,” Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Robert Myers said in a statement, according to the United States Navy Institute News.

The Hill also reported the deaths by suicide of three additional sailors between November 2019 and October 2020, which have been confirmed by the Navy.

An investigation has been ordered to assess the deaths and examine “command climate and culture issues” aboard the ship.

“Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, has directed Rear Adm. John Meier, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, to investigate and assess the reported deaths of sailors assigned to the USS George Washington,” U.S. Fleet Forces Command Capt. Sarah Self-Kyler told The Hill in a statement Monday.

The admiral has instructed his staff to work with the Naval Air Force Atlantic, other Navy stakeholders, and the ship to assess the efficacy of the military wing’s Total Sailor Fitness programs, which is designed to help with operational stress control by encouraging psychological and emotional well-being.

Issues about the habitability of the ship were raised with the navy’s top enlisted official during a visit on April 22.

During the visit, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith told a sailor, who raised questions about conditions aboard, that the Navy “probably could have done better to manage your expectations” on the ship’s habitability.

Smith encouraged sailors to “always raise” their concerns with leadership, but “to do so with reasonable expectations and then understanding what this is like.”

He went on to say that sailors living aboard the ship were not “sleeping in a foxhole like a Marine might be doing.” He also told sailors that it was not easy to lure psychiatrists and psychologists to work for the Navy.

The USS George Washington, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier, has been dry docked for deep maintenance and a complex refuelling of its nuclear reactors at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia since 2017. The overhaul was due to be completed last year but works were extended due to labor shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are now expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The three most recent crew deaths took place between April 9 and 15. Retail Services Specialist 3rd Class Mikail Sharp was found dead off-base on April 9. This was followed by the off-base death of Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Natasha Huffman on April 10. Both have been determined to be suicides.

In an onboard death, Master-at-Arms Seaman Recruit Xavier Hunter Mitchell-Sandor has been found to have died from suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 15. Sandor’s father blamed workplace conditions for his son’s death, telling NBC he was otherwise “such a happy, proud person.”

“The death of any sailor is one too many, and we will thoroughly investigate these incidents to ensure we are providing the appropriate support and resources to sailors at sea and in the shipyards,” Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesperson Myers said.

A committee set up specifically in February by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for suicide prevention in the military will in May visit military installations and bases, and is expected to deliver a preliminary set of recommendations early next year.

The Epoch Times has contacted the Navy for comment.

From The Epoch Times

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