Update: NAVY Probes ‘Command Climate’ in Multiple Deaths

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Following up on recent reports of three dead sailors in a single week but no clues, DRH has learned that the Navy opened an official investigation into “the command climate and culture” aboard the USS George Washington.

All three of the deaths appear to be suicide and there were more. In the past year, there were seven crew member deaths, four by alleged suicide.

Navy opens probe

Every suicide is a tragedy. Military suicides are particularly worrisome. When sailors begin killing themselves at an alarmingly regular pace, on one ship in specific, everyone starts looking at the top of the command chain.

The Navy announced Friday, April 22, that they have officially “opened an investigation into the command climate and culture” on board the USS George Washington, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

The vessel has been anchored in port at Newport News, Virginia, while undergoing complicated refueling and a major overhaul of the other equipment. The Navy inquest will dig into any “connections or links between the deaths.

It’s easy to assume there must be something in common because three of the sailors died by apparent suicide in one week. The press isn’t whispering about any speculation over what the cause might be.

The facts are that in the past year, the Navy aircraft carrier logged seven crew deaths. Captain Sarah Self-Kyler, a spokeswoman for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, verifies that the four most recent ones “were either confirmed or apparent suicides.

Two of the seven deaths have been ruled “not to have been by suicide.” Those happened in May and October of 2021. The cause of death in the seventh case from July, 2021, remains “undetermined.

Off base locations

As reported previously, both Retail Services Specialist 3rd Class Mikail Sharp, discovered on April 9, and Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Natasha Huffman reported unresponsive on April 10, were found in “off base” locations. The most recent tragedy happened aboard ship on April 15.

The Navy has released the victim’s name as Master at Arms Seaman Recruit Xavier Hunter Mitchell Sandor. He was transported to a hospital and expired there.

While the Navy has “determined that those three deaths were apparent suicides,” they aren’t giving any suggestions as to why, noting “a final cause remains under investigation.” December’s fatality has been confirmed as a suicide for certain. Normally, the west coast based USS George Washington is out on patrol.

However, the ship’s been docked since 2017 because changing the fuel rods of a nuclear reactor isn’t like changing the oil in the family sedan. While they’re at it, all of the systems are getting an upgrade.

The big problem is that between covid and a snapped supply chain, the work isn’t getting done anywhere close to deadline. It usually takes four years but in this case “it has been delayed multiple times by the pandemic and other setbacks.” That’s what happens when the Navy relies on parts made from sub-parts produced in China.

Alleged Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin isn’t happy about service member suicides. He calls addressing the issue a priority. That’s why last month, he established the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee. They’re going to “look at Defense Department efforts to deal with suicides among troops.

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