The USS George Washington set out for testing Monday after six years at the shipyard, during which the ship’s leadership failed to address quality of life issues for the assigned crew that may have contributed to a spate of suicides, according to U.S. Naval Institute News.
The aircraft carrier began a mid-life refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) initially scheduled to last four years, but pandemic-related worker suspensions, funding delays and an unusual maintenance schedule tied the ship to the yard for an additional two years, according to USNI News. The ship’s nearing completion of the RCOH comes days after the U.S. Navy found it failed to adequately address rampant quality of life and mental health problems among the vessel’s crew, contributing to the deaths of nine sailors.
From 2017 to 2022, nine Navy servicemembers took their own lives while assigned to the carrier, according to USNI News. Three suicides in April 2022 shocked the public and triggered a quality of life investigation. (RELATED: ‘Something Is Very Wrong’: America’s Most Powerful Tool For Countering China Is In Dire Straits, Experts Say)
The report, released Thursday, found that junior sailors on board the carrier dealt with one of the the most difficult living environments in the military, including hourslong commutes, isolation and working conditions that resembled a permanent construction zone. Meanwhile, a special team designed to monitor the climate among crew members did not function properly, and the ship’s on-board psychologist was consistently overwhelmed.
“We got ourselves into a space that we were just not ready to understand what can happen with this length of overrun,” U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. Daryl Caudle said on Thursday, attributing some of the carrier’s personnel troubles to the unexpected RCOH delays.
Sea trials will last several days, according to USNI News. The RCOH included refueling the USS George Washington’s two nuclear reactors, modernizing systems and refitting the ship’s interior.
Sailors assigned to the ship described their experiences as living in a construction zone
In Shelton for a press conference we should have never had to organize.
Seaman Xavier Sandor took his life after living in deplorable conditions aboard the USS George Washington, with little access to counseling.
Today, with his parents, we introduced legislation to fix this. pic.twitter.com/RwlBp0Ggk8
— Chris Murphy 🟧 (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 12, 2023
“Factors that extended the RCOH included delays and changes in her RCOH planning and induction timeline due to FY15 budgetary decisions to inactivate (vice refuel) this ship; the arrival condition of the ship, which was more challenging than expected, planned or budgeted for, including growth work in significant areas of the RCOH; the requirement to remove critical parts from CVN-73 [the USS George Washington] to support higher-priority, deploying aircraft carriers; and the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce and industrial base,” Huntington Ingalls Industries, the shipbuilder performing the repairs, told USNI News.
The USS George Washington is expected to redeploy to Japan once the overhaul is completed in 2023, while the current carrier deployed to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific, the USS Ronald Reagan, will return to the U.S., according to a Navy press release.
The U.S. Navy did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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