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    USS George Washington Sets Sail Amidst Past Troubles and Future Promise

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    USS George Washington arrival Brisbane-27=” by Sheba Also 18 Million Views is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    After a grueling six-year maintenance overhaul marred by concerning conditions and a series of crew suicides, the USS George Washington has departed Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, bound for its new station in Yokosuka, Japan.

    USS George Washington arrival Brisbane-06=” by Sheba Also 18 Million Views is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier marks its return to operational status with a journey that includes exercises in South America under the banner of Southern Seas 2024.

    USS George Washington transits the Strait of Magellan.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The ship’s overhaul, which started in 2017 at Newport News Shipbuilding, faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other priorities that extended a process normally taking four years.

    An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant lands on the flight deck of USS George Washington.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Amid these delays, the crew endured challenging living conditions and a cluster of suicides that brought to light the stark realities of life during long-term maintenance.

    USS George Washington
    USS George Washington

    “Team Warfighter is ready to go,” Captain Tim Waits, commanding officer of the George Washington, expressed with assurance. The vessel’s readiness echoes a sentiment of resilience as the carrier undertakes its first deployment in nearly a decade, set to replace the USS Ronald Reagan.

    USS Ronald Reagan and USS John C. Stennis conduct a dual carrier operations.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The crew’s welfare during the shipyard stay has been a central concern, as a troubling number of suicides shook the Navy.

    USS Ronald Reagan conducts a replenishment-at-sea with USS Chancellorsville (CG 62).” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Commander Dawn Stankus, a spokesperson for Naval Air Force Atlantic, acknowledged the inherent challenges of shipyard life, emphasizing that “you don’t necessarily get to do what you signed up to do in the military.”

    USS McCampbell (DDG-85) comes alongside USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) for a refueling” by manhhai is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    The tragic suicides triggered extensive investigations, revealing a landscape of uninhabitable living conditions, lack of training in suicide prevention programs, and a high level of distrust in military medicine. Findings indicated leadership oversights and the pressing need for mental health support.

    An EA-18G Growler takes off from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during Keen Sword 21.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    In response to these findings, the Navy is doubling down on measures to safeguard the mental well-being of sailors. Mental health resources aboard the Washington have since been bolstered, with Kellylynn Zuni, the GW’s clinical psychologist, citing a doubled permanent mental health staff on the ship and the creation of Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Teams (SPRINT) for emergency care.

    USS Ronald Reagan” by DVIDSHUB is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    As the GW embarks on its new chapter, a state-of-the-art rest and recreation area has been unveiled, designed to offer sailors a respite with amenities such as a library, gaming, and communication tools to stay in touch with family. These initiatives are part of a broader effort to mitigate stressors and improve the overall quality of life and work for the crew.

    USS Ronald Reagan” by chukpike is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The ship’s capacity to project power is immense, housing over 6,000 crewmembers and capable of carrying up to 90 aircraft, including F-35 Lightning and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.

    USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) fires a RIM-116 test rolling airframe missile.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    It’s an armed seagoing airbase, also equipped with a 20mm radar-guided air-defense gun, a Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile launcher, and two RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launchers.

    USS Boxer (LHD 4) fires a RIM-116 missile from a rolling airframe missile launcher.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Reflecting on the past trials and the path forward, Rear Admiral John Meier, formerly the commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, observed, “It is safe to say that generations of Navy leaders had become accustomed to the reduced quality of life in the shipyard, and accepted the status quo as par for the course for shipyard life.”

    RIM-116 Rolling airframe missile launcher” by R’lyeh Imaging is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The GW’s return to active duty is met with hope, as the carrier’s challenging shipyard tenure comes to a close. Its deployment is not just a strategic move in U.S. naval operations but also a testament to the indomitable spirit of its crew, who have withstood years of hardship.

    USS Abraham Lincoln fires a RIM-116 test rolling airframe missile.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    As the George Washington sails toward Yokosuka, the ship and its crew look to a horizon that promises both operational readiness and a renewed commitment to the well-being of its sailors.

    Relevant articles:
    See aboard USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier with a checkered recent history, Business Insider
    USS George Washington Heads to Japan, Ending Troubled Shipyard Stay That Included String of Suicides, Military.com
    USS George Washington Heads to Japan, Ending Troubled Shipyard Stay That Included String of Suicides, Military.com
    After a series of suicides, the USS George Washington returns to sea with more mental healthcare, The American Homefront Project

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