The Navy allows more than 200 sailors to leave USS George Washington after multiple suicides

More than 200 sailors on the USS George Washington took the opportunity Monday to transfer from the ship to accommodation at a local installation. The move is part of the Navy’s response to support the crew who lost three shipmates to suicide within a week of April.

According to the Navy, the commanding officer of the USS George Washington, Captain Brent Gaut, plans to offer every sailor aboard the option to relocate to an off-ship location. The first 200 moved in on Monday, and the Navy is making arrangements to relocate more if desired.

The USS George Washington has docked in Norfolk, Virginia since 2017 for a multi-year overhaul that will keep the aircraft carrier in service for years to come in the long term, but in the short term has effectively transformed the ship into a construction zone.

While the ship is being overhauled, a number of sailors are needed on board to ensure the safety of the ship, manage essential equipment, and maintain vigilance over fires and floods.

The Navy’s top enlisted leader downplayed the conditions when he visited the aircraft carrier in late April. During the visit, according to audio obtained by CBS News, a sailor raised concern about the poor condition on the ship and Navy Chief NCO Russell Smith told him the Navy could have done a better job managing sailors’ expectations. arriving in.

“I hear your concerns and you should always raise them, but you have to do it with reasonable expectations and then figure out how … how it is,” Smith said. “What you’re not doing is sleeping in a trench like a marine might.”

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington leaves the US naval base at Yokosuka, 60km south of Tokyo, for the last time for refueling and complex overhaul on May 18, 2015.

TORU YAMANAKA / AFP via Getty Images

CBS News reported last week that in total, seven sailors have committed suicide since the ship was overhauled in 2017. In addition to the three recent suicides in April, sailors assigned to George Washington committed suicide in December 2021, October 2020, July 2020 and November 2019.

It is unclear why the sailors committed suicide, but the Navy has launched an investigation into the recent deaths of sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier. The investigation will include issues related to climate and culture of command and the systemic relationships between them, according to the Navy.

In addition, the Navy is forming a team to assess the condition of aircraft carriers undergoing maintenance and their recommendations will improve the quality of life of all aircraft carriers.

The USS George Washington isn’t the only carrier to have suffered suicides during an overhaul. In 2019, the USS George HW Bush lost four shipmates by committing suicide during her years-long overhaul in Norfolk, Virginia.

For immediate help in the event of a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential.

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