Defense

Navy boss visiting USS George Washington, ship linked to string of suicides

Steve Helber/The Associated Press/Navy
The nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington sits pier side at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro will visit the USS George Washington on Tuesday, making him the most senior official to visit the ship amid a string of suicides among sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier.

Capt. J.D. Dorsey, a Navy spokesperson, told The Hill that del Toro and Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday will visit the ship to “hear firsthand” from the ship’s crew and leadership.

They will also “determine how things are going, and determine if there are other actions that need to be taken” to make conditions on the ship better for the crew.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin first mentioned the visit on Wednesday during public remarks about the situation surrounding the ship.

The George Washington has been docked in Newport News since 2017 for a midlife refueling and complex overhaul. The service has been under pressure to address conditions aboard the aircraft carrier, specifically after three sailors died by suicide within a week in April.

Crew members assigned to the ship have spoken out about the harsh conditions onboard. An 18-year-old sailor assigned to the ship attempted suicide last week, his mother told The Hill.

The Navy says it has moved about 200 crew members off the ship and has provided mental health resources to sailors. Two investigations are also underway into the suicides among the George Washington crew.

Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, del Toro said the Navy needs to do a better job in providing a higher quality of life for sailors working on the ship.

“We need to develop a plan that’s more robust than what we’re currently doing for especially aircraft carriers because you’re introducing upwards of 2,500 sailors into an already challenging environment,” he said.

Updated Tuesday at 7:33 a.m.

Tags Carlos del Toro Carlos Del Toro Carlos Del Toro George Washington Lloyd Austin Lloyd Austin Michael Gilday Michael M. Gilday Navy USS George Washington USS George Washington

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