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The Navy acknowledges the suicide of 7 sailors assigned to the USS George Washington

Seven sailors from the Navy attached to the USS George Washington have died by suicide during the time the aircraft carrier has undergone a years-long inspection in Newport News, Virginia, the Navy said Thursday.

The Navy acknowledged on Thursday that in addition to the four suicides in the past year, as CBS News has reported, three more sailors affiliated with the carrier died of suicide in 2019 and 2020.

The three suicides from 2019 and 2020 took place while the USS George Washington was under the command of Captain Kenneth Strong. According to the Navy, Strong left the ship three months ahead of schedule due to “individual incidents of poor judgment and leadership.” Despite his early departure, Strong was awarded a Legion of Merit for, among other things, winning a 98% score on the 2019 Safety and Occupational Health Management Evaluation.

The living and working conditions on the transport trolley present challenges for the sailors. While at the shipyard, George Washington is basically a construction zone where it can be cramped, hot and loud for the crew on board.

One of the ship’s crew told CBS News that “it feels like the Big Navy has let us dry. No one cares.”

The American aircraft carrier USS George Washington
The American aircraft carrier USS George Washington is seen during its mission in the Eastern Mediterranean on February 5, 2017.


Following reports that three sailors had died by suicide in a single week in April, the fleet sent opened an investigation last week into their deaths. It examines whether the living conditions of the carrier played a role in the suicides and whether the ship’s commanders did everything they could to make the conditions as acceptable as possible.

The USS George Washington’s overhaul is delayed – it Covid-19 pandemic and the need for unexpected repairs has kept the carrier at the yard for almost a year longer than expected. The company has been berthed at Newport News Shipbuilding for a major overhaul since 2017.

The Navy’s chief recruiter, Master Chief Petty Officer for the Navy Russell Smith, visited the airline last week and received questions from the sailors. In response to a question about the living conditions on the ship, Smith said, “I think we could probably have done better to manage your expectations coming in here,” according to audio and a transcript of the visit to the company.

“What you do not do is sleep in a foxhole, as a Marine might do. What you do is go home at night, most nights,” Smith said, adding, “The downside is some of the shit, going through logistics will drive you crazy. “

The USS George Washington is not the first airline to experience a rash of suicide while undergoing a major overhaul. In September 2019, three sailors associated with the USS George HW Bush died of suicide within a week while the ship was being restored in Virginia.

In March, the Pentagon launched the Independent Suicide Prevention and Response Evaluation Committee to review prevention activities. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said earlier this month that the committee will look into the situation across the force, including for those on ships.

For immediate help, if you are in a crisis, call it for free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential.

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