Twelve current and former crew members of USS George Washington, seen here in 2015 off shore of Chile paints a disturbing picture of vessel with many problems. Three crew members of the ship committed suicide in one in April. (Specialist 2nd Class Adam Henderson, US Navy)
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WASHINGTON – The commander stood in front of the sailors of USS George Washington security team. One of their own, Xavier Sandor, committed suicide a few weeks earlier, in mid-April and captain came to talk with 110 or so young men and women who worked closely with his.
Talk with Captain Brent Gauth lasted two hours, according to four sailors in attendance who said with CNN. In it, Gaut acknowledged how the sailors felt. for months. He said the crew had moved back the sailors also remembered the aircraft carrier soon, but it was too late to go back.
Another sailor told CNN that Gauth was talking over the ship’s speaker system, known as 1MC or 1 Main Circuit, about two months ago, and said that the ship, which was undergoing major maintenance, was not ready for sailors in move on board when the process started last summer. But he said, “No turning back Now. We cannot change course.”
CNN reached out to the fleet for comment on Gaut’s remarks.
Situation on aircraft carrier came to national attention when three sailors committed suicide in one week last month. But twelve current and former crew members of George Washington who said with CNN painted a disturbing picture of vessel with many problems, including what many called terrible living standards on a ship that was actually a construction site concerns over quality of food and the feeling that the leadership is not engaged problems and rejection of complaints.
But they weren’t the only deaths on the aircraft carrier, as it remained, moored at the Newport News shipyard. Since the summer, the nuclear aircraft carrier has been undergoing refueling and overhaul. of 2017. Initially it was assumed that the process last four years, has been delayed several times times until at least March 2023, the Navy said.
Sailors who agreed to speak with All CNN said the ship was uninhabitable. The sailors started moving aboard an aircraft carrier one year back after the ship already was in the process of its refueling and overhaul for four years old and had to be ready to place parts of Team. Even after years of work prepare media for This next deployment, the ship remained in the construction zone around the clock. Often, challenges of a life on ship hit the youngest seafarers have the hardest time.
“I was ready for (expletive) situation, but I had no idea what it would be in in yards” one sailor currently nominated to George Washington, told CNN. Majority of sailors said on condition of anonymity, fear of effects of Speaking out to your own career in fleet or those of their friends.
in past 12 months, crew of seven people died on the USS George Washington of at least four committed suicide, the Navy said. Xavier Sandor, who have worked in security on board vessel, according to who knew him took his own life on April 15, third suicide in one a week among the crew.
Sandora father, John Sandor, said it son proud join Navy out of high school, after in in the footsteps of his grandfather. But Xavier once said to his father conditions on the ship was “terrible”.
“How did you sleep on aircraft carrier with jackhammer, smoke and smells during the day? asked John Sandor, demanding an explanation. in his car. No sailor should even lived on this ship in these conditions.”
Suicide becomes a tragedy reality of aircraft carrier, the sailors told CNN, instead of aberration. “I wasn’t surprised. on ship for as long as I have been, this is what I am unfortunately used to, “said one second sailor on George Washington. “I saw it, it’s nothing new.”
On board the ship it was almost impossible to find a quiet place sleep, the sailors said, and the ship was constantly suffering power shutdowns and lack of hot water. According to them, there was often no ventilation in the berths, and the massive metal structure of the ship increased the temperature outside until it became unbearable.
“I would wake up up in middle of the night freezes my ass off”, another sailor told CNN. “I lived in my car in winter, and I still felt better than on the quay.” Sailor, who says at that time he was 19 years old, he was shocked by the conditions on a ship far from his expectations of what was life like like in Navy. He lived in his car off and on for about 3 weeks he saysuntil he becomes more accustomed to restrictions of carrier.
“This is the bottom,” he told CNN, saying of situation on USS George Washington.
The crew has moved off ship
Earlier this week the ship’s commander announced what about half of in more more than 400 crew members living on board the aircraft carrier, move to temporary housing off ship. Other who wanted do the same thing also be given the opportunity. Sailors who said with All CNN agreed that this was the right thing to do.
When asked if the navy was aware that the crew members were asleep. in their cars instead of on ship, agent for The U.S. Navy in the Atlantic said every sailor was “provided with the means to live” and the Navy will look into whether housing was a factor. in suicide.
“The Navy and Congressional Leadership met extensively with in current leadership aboard the USS George Washington and are confident that leadership team works hard – inside and outside of their life lines – take care for crew,” Commander Robert Myers said. in statement to CNN. “Our current focus on ensuring that we provide safe and healthy environment for our sailors aboard GW, and that the ship’s management team has the resources to do so.
One sailor shared with CNN messages from the ship digital guess box where people may point out problems or share ideas. Many of posts were categorized as “Quality of Life” and focused on questions like long distance parking, low morale or food. But rarely did anything change, the sailors said.
“Complaints won’t do anything. You just must suffer in silence,” said the fourth sailor assigned to the ship.
Even complete food was sometimes hard to come, several sailors told CNN.
“They would just run out of food, and if they had anything left it would be – if you lucky – cereal or one a little chicken leg, which may or may not be undercooked,” said the fourth sailor. who often worked on the night shift of security.
“Prisoners got better food than us in in militarysaid the sailor. who recently transferred from the USS George Washington. She was the carrier first assignment and she says she is developed binge problem for time because of accommodations.
“This is the craziest environment that i ever had to experience,” she said.
Two weeks ago, Chief Petty Officer of Navy Russell Smith, the service’s top sailor, visited the George Washington and spoke to the crew. In a statement released afterwards, he said that his visit to the ship was for “an open and honest dialogue” where is he wanted “learn about the difficulties of our sailors facingand “understand their concerns.”
But when he told the sailors should have “reasonable expectations” and that they do not “sleep in trench like what a Marine can do,” some of the crew members were stunned. The fourth sailor from the ship called it “ridiculous, offensive speech.”
“Is not reason for why are we live in way we do,” said second sailor. “Things can be done to fix what we’re going through.”
Another former a sailor assigned to George Washington called the situation on board “unacceptable”, especially given the resources available to military to improve living conditions and quality of a life.
“This is not Afghanistan where you expect such circumstances,” he said. “This is Newport News, Virginia.”
Since the latest suicides, the Navy has launched two investigations. first, which is expected to be completed soon, looks specifically at recent deaths on board ship. second, a broader investigation will examine the team climate and culture at the shipyard in Newport News including housing, parking and quality of life questions.
The Navy is “confident that our comprehensive investigation and assessment of the command climate and various qualitative of life questions will define areas for future improvements, as well as recommendations for immediate action,” Commander Myers said.
Commander of This was stated by Admiral of the US Navy in the Atlantic John Meyer. also added more mental health resources such as special intervention team and an additional psychologist. Crew members aboard USS George Washington also have access to distance mental health resources as well as on-board training for junior sailors.
Growth in Mental health resources have long been in short supply, sailors say. who said with CNN. Although there was a clinical psychologist on board, the sailors said they would have to wait for months. for meeting.
When Jacob Grella who spent the most of its time in fleet assigned to George Washington, found out he was assigned to an aircraft carrier, which was short drive from him family in Richmond, Virginia, he said on Facebook that he was “fucking happy”. But it didn’t take long for his occasional weekend trips home become chance to escape from the ship.
Grella said he tried schedule visiting the ship’s psychologist during his last year on ship.
When he did this he was met with “a six-month waiting period” and at that point “I would almost out of Navy.”
Despite his disappointment, Grella and many of other sailors who said with CNN believed that profound changes in culture and climate of the ship was reachable.
“I think it’s definitely possiblehe said, but for what will happen, I think, at this moment accountability need to be carried out for all. you need to start looking at what causes failure and who causes this negative attitude and mindset on those poor kids.”
Suicide Prevention Resources
If you or someone you are know is an struggling with thoughts of suicide, call suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.
- Utah County Hotline: 801-691-5433
- Salt Lake City Emergency Number/UNI: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Project Trevor Hotline for LGBTQ teenagers: 1-866-488-7386
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