More than 200 sailors left the aircraft carrier after several suicides
Sailors move to a local Navy facility as the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier continues to undergo a years-long refueling and overhaul process at Newport News Naval Shipyard in Virginia. In the past 12 months, seven crew members have died, four of them by suicide, prompting the Navy to launch an investigation into the climate and command culture aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
The aircraft carrier’s commanding officer, Capt. Brent Gaut, made the decision to allow sailors living aboard the ship to move to other accommodations, according to a statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic. On the first day of the move, which began Monday, more than 200 sailors left the carrier and moved to a nearby Navy facility.
“The relocation plan will continue until all sailors who wish to leave the ship have done so,” the statement said. Although the carrier does not have its full complement of approximately 5,000 sailors, the ship still has between 2,000 and 3,000 sailors living on board during the overhaul process.
The ship’s command is working to identify sailors who might “benefit and desire the morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) support services and programs” available at local navy facilities. The Navy is in the process of setting up “temporary accommodations” for these sailors, according to an earlier statement from Naval Air Force Atlantic.
“Management is actively implementing them and pursuing a number of additional morale and personal welfare measures and support services to members assigned to USS George Washington.”
The deaths aboard the carrier prompted Rep. Elaine Luria, a 20-year Navy veteran whose district encompasses several military installations, to write a letter to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday demanding action. immediately to ensure the safety of the crew.
“Each of these deaths is a tragedy, and the number of incidents within a single command, which includes up to four sailors committing suicide, raises significant concerns that require immediate and thorough investigation,” Luria wrote. last week, noting that his office has received complaints about the quality of life on board the ship and a toxic atmosphere.