In the wake of multiple deaths and suicides aboard the USS George Washington, 260 sailors are being rehoused on land in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the U.S. Navy has announced.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has been dry docked since 2017 as it undergoes an extensive overhaul process.
In the past year, the ship has lost seven crewmembers. In April alone, the ship suffered three apparent suicides.
Those who died in April have been named as, Master-at-Arms Seaman Recruit Xavier H. Mitchell-Sandor, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Natasha Huffman and Retail Services Specialist 3rd Class Mika’il Rayshawn Sharp.
At least five crewmembers aboard the USS George Washington (pictured) were confirmed to have died by suicide. There have been others who have tried but failed to kill themselves
According to Military.com, a total of 420 sailors live on board the USS George Washington. Many of them are juniors members of the crew.
400 sailors were moved on to the ship in April 2021.
The United States Naval Institute said that the ship’s overhaul will not be completed until 2023. The cost of the extension is over $100 million.
The website quoted the ship’s Capt. Brent Gaut as saying this week that the 260 sailors being moved off of the ship will be moved ‘to an offsite barracks-type living arrangement on Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.’
Mika’il Rayshawn Sharp, 23, (pictured) killed himself on April 9. His mother said the youngman was excited to start a family with his new wife
The process of moving the sailors began on May 2.
A spokesperson for the Navy told Military.com that all sailors who wish to be rehoused off of the ship will be allowed to do so.
The statement went on to say that sailors were being recommended for Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.
Gaut also said: ‘Leadership is actively implementing these and pursuing a number of additional morale and personal well-being measures and support services to members assigned to USS George Washington.’
Natasha Huffman, 23, (above) killed herself on April 10. Friends said she repeatedly asked for help but was provided with little assistance before ending her life
Navy investigators are looking into conditions that sailors live in on board the ship as well as the culture on board.
The ship can accommodate over 5,000 sailors. While the ship is in dry dock, there are close to 3,000 crew working on the Nimitz class-carrier.
Admiral John Meier, the commander of US Naval Air Force Atlantic, told the media during a conference on May 3: ‘We’ve assigned an investigating officer to look into that and to really to look into the proximate cause. Was there an immediate trigger? Was there a linkage between those events? I expect that to report out this week, and I won’t presuppose the outcome of that report.’
Meier confirmed that there are two active Navy investigations into the USS George Washington.
Xavier Hunter Sandor (above) killed himself on April 15. His father said the sailor slept in his car and drove 8 hours home every other weekend from Virginia to Connecticut to get away
The first investigation will look into the deaths of Mitchell-Sandor, Huffman and Sharp. It’s goal is to ascertain if there were any immediate factors that contributed to their deaths.
The second investigation was described as being ‘much broader’ in scope. Meier said, ‘
Following the apparent suicides in April, Meier said that counselors, a psychologist and “a 13-person sprint team, which is a special intervention team for instances like this’ was dispatched to the ship.
That team was on board the USS George Washington for a week and relayed their findings to the investigation teams.
Captain Brent Gaut announced this week that 260 sailors ‘to an offsite barracks-type living arrangement on Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.’
According to Meier, the ship has suffered from occasional power and water outages. He added that officials are seeking to increase Wifi service on board. Meier said that he felt living conditions on board the ship were ‘habitable’
An anonymous sailor told Military.com: [Those on board] live in a construction zone. There’s grinding, needle gunning, there’s always problems with ventilation, there’s always problems with hot water.’
While another told the website, ‘It’s not like one big glaring problem, it’s just a bunch of small stuff that adds up and adds up and adds up, but it never goes away.’
When asked if the findings of the investigations would be made public, Meier said that decision would be made by someone higher up in the chain of command.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington has been in a dry dock since 2017 and will not go back into service until 2023 at a cost of $100 million
Meier noted in the press conference that not all sailors had taken up the offer to move off of the ship.
Vigrinia Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, herself a Navy veteran, along with fellow Democrat Bobby Scott, toured the ship alongside Meier on May 3.
Luria said after the tour: ‘I would say I think the captain and the command master chief, the command triad, I would say they have their heads and hearts in the right place,’ reports 13 News Now.
She added: ‘They’ve done everything they can with the resources available through the Navy to help move sailors off the ship, to help get additional resources for mental health care.’