After Outcry, 260 Sailors From USS George Washington Will Move Ashore
After three apparent suicides in a week aboard the drydocked carrier USS George Washington, the U.S. Navy has decided to scale down the number of personnel living aboard the vessel in an apparent response to crewmember complaints.
Under the new arrangement, about 260 out of the 400 sailors berthed on board will be transferred to off-site temporary housing, beginning this week. The option will be available for another 50 personnel each week thereafter, a Navy spokesperson told ABC. The service typically retains a skeleton crew aboard vessels in shipyard in order to respond quickly in the event of a fire or another emergency.
USS George Washington has been at Newport News Shipyard for her mid-life overhaul since 2017, and her return to service has been delayed by at least one year due to the challenges of the pandemic and the discovery of additional repair requirements.
Some crewmembers have reported challenging living and working conditions on board during the yard period. “It’s not a place for first-time sailors, where you’re sold all this stuff from a recruiter and you’re thrown on this ship where stuff doesn’t even work, berthings aren’t clean, bathrooms aren’t cleaned,” one crewmember told Navy Times.
The difficulties of living in a shipyard have taken a toll on morale, some crewmembers and former crewmembers have reported. While the challenges of an extended yard period are familiar for the Navy, the apparent outcome aboard the Washington has been unfortunate. Seven crewmembers have died in the last year, including one from unknown causes, one from suicide and three more from apparent suicide.
After public calls for an inquiry, the Navy has appointed Rear Adm. Brad Dunham, the Deputy Commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, to oversee an investigation into quality of life issues aboard carriers in shipyard.