Facebook anonymous message received 04/26/2022 at 8:09pm Mountain time

I received a series of messages on April 26, 2022 from Hannah Katze, a mother whose sailor is on the George Washington, that were deleted and unavailable.  After a download of my message requests, I was able to retrieve them.  They are as follows:

 

"I saw on a FB thread that you were accepting stories from the USS George Washington. My sailor and friends wanted to share their stories anonymously, so I'm sending them to you.",

 

Sailor A: I'm a sailor working in the shipyards, not on the GW, but on the Stennis, which neighbors the GW. I thought it might be important to share my story, and the stories of a few friends as well, because although I have likely been less affected, and my situation is less horrible in comparison (at least in my opinion,) this problem goes beyond just one ship. The rash of suicides is more centralized to the GW, but a lot of the other problems are shared. Especially the lack of moral or care for the wellbeing of the sailors from the CoC. This is a very wide spread problem. I know a lot of the sailors on the GW, I used to live in the same barracks they did, before I moved out and before they got effectively kicked out, so I had the chance to meet quite a few people. I have a few friends who have shared with me their struggles and concerns who agreed to let me send their experiences alongside my own.  This is going to be lengthy, so pick and choose what you want out of it.",

 

"Sailor B: We are all lower enlisted, so we tend to get the short end of things. Basically, all the grunt work, manual labor, busy work, jobs that no one else wants, it is all ours, and of course we get to deal with the ridiculous amount of hazing from the rest of the sailors. Hazing lasts as long as the people you work with and for want it to last- days, weeks, months, whatever- and ranges from just getting sent all over the ship on useless endeavors and carrying everything for the people you work with, to getting thrown under the bus as the culprit of things you did not do, but people who are ranked above you will pin on you to save their own skin. (A: Personally, I was blamed by the people in my team for gundecking, despite not being qualified for the work at the time, and being somewhere else entirely.) That's just how it goes. It's shitty. You can't trust the people you work with, because they might stab you in the back, and the Chain of Command (CoC) could care less.  Point is, being lower enlisted sucks, and absolutely no one is going to look out for you. It's every man for himself. We all feel pretty alone out here, and most of us have some serious trust issues.",

 

"Living and working conditions? Sailor C: Work never stops on the ship. There is work being done 24/7, grinding, paint chipping, sand blasting, needle gunning, etc. It is LOUD. All day and night. Sleep is near impossible with that alone, but it is even worse without the ventilation. The humidity forms condensation, which in certain areas will drip from the ceiling like rain. It also has the lovely side effect of forming mold and mildew. The smell is atrocious, and some sailors get sick or cough due to the spores or just have never ending allergies. It can't be good for anyone at least, that's for sure.",

 

Sailor D: The temperature is by far the worst part, in my opinion. The ship is basically a massive tin can, a microwave or a freezer, and it leans towards the extremes in temperatures, usually 10 degrees above or below whatever the temp is outside. So on days where it is mid to high 80s? it can get closer to 100 degrees in certain areas of the ship. So not only is work miserable, so is trying to sleep. Picture this: you work for roughly 8-9 hours depending on the day in near 100 degree temperatures, which of course makes the crew sweaty and smelly. So you want a shower. Surprise surprise, there is no hot water. Ever. Or I've just never gotten lucky enough to get any. Have fun shivering in your freezing shower. Then you get to return to the oppressive heat to try and sleep in this loud construction zone. Sound echoes and travels on ships, it's all just hollow pockets of connected metal and empty space. You will know if someone is needle gunning 3 levels above you, because you will hear it quite clearly. I hope you have earplugs."

"Sailor E: Living like this is miserable enough. But knowing the CoC doesn't care one way or another if you live or die beyond the PR bullshit they will have to send out and the paperwork involved is the cherry on top of the shit sundae. You get jaded and bitter damn quick. You have to, because trying to empathize isn't going to help you. Every time something bad goes down, or someone offs themselves, the rest of us have to sit through the mandatory 'don't kill yourself' PowerPoint trainings. The leadership's only goal is to cover their own ass. They give the same BS pep talk: If you need help tell someone, don't be scared to ask for assistance, there are resources for you. Every time without fail. Look, I don't speak for everyone, but I would rather die than seek what they offer as 'help.' A bit dark, but I'm just calling it as I see it. Medical or Psych is likely to get you the boot from the service before actually helping you. Chaplains are hit or miss. You won't likely want to spill your soul to someone who you don't know well or just doesn't hit it off with you in some sort of way to get you to open up. A: This is, of course, assuming you can even find them or get ahold of them. They tend to be very busy for obvious reasons. I can't get ahold of my ship's chaplain when they have so many people to talk to, so that option is out for me. A,E,

 

Sailor F: What you are left with are anonamous phone calls to suicide prevention, or whatever crisis line they give you, which have even less appeal. My phone number is on record in my personnel file, and I have serious issues I don't Ever want getting out. Call it paranoia if you want, I call it a healthy amount of caution. A lot of us pick the less fatal, less risky, unhealthy option of getting a new addiction. Smoking, drinking, the usual suspects. Not healthy, but when you live on a boat, there are very few healthy outlets. Plus, it just seems easier to try to deal with it yourself in this way. Not that it really works, but can't hurt to give it a shot. Can't get professional help for depression, PTSD, anxiety, and/or trauma? Time for the unprofessional options.",

 

"Sailor G: The ridiculous amount of stress and pressure put upon us doesn't help. We are stressed, we feel isolated- despite talking to some extent to other sailors. The potential to be Masted scares most of us into just doing what they tell us, along with the feeling of being unable to escape the hellish situation that you have been put into with the ship. So when some people make their own form of escape by taking their own lives? I can't say that I don't understand the appeal. Most of us have several years left on our contracts. The thought of doing this for that long? It can be unbearable.",

 

"Sailor H: I want out. But there isn't a way to get out without getting into trouble with the chiefs or higher up khakis. I have considered asking for a transfer, but the chance that would be granted without some sort of documented reason is slim to none. I would try to get separated, but I heard that they take all the benefits no matter the reason, and I don't want to lose those after the shit they put me through. The lack of distance from work and my 'personal space' doesn't help. I want to go home, or just get off the ship, but that isn't an option. I've crashed on friends' floors or couches to just get a single moment of rest and distance. Going back is hard when I know what waits for me.",

 

"Sailor I: My friends and I are handling it by ourselves as best we can, but having that many people commit suicide, if you know them or not, it affects us all. I'm worried that someone I know might be next. How do you deal with that kind of thing? We joke about it, you know? It is a sick coping mechanism, fucked up. But everything else is fucked up, so what the hell. Every day, we discuss how we would do it. Drugs, pills, hanging, jumping, driving into a tree, taking a bullet to the skull, slitting our wrists, toaster in the tub *if you even get to leave to use a tub. I know it would horrify my family, hell, it horrifies me too, but I can't stop, it helps in a fucked up way. I worry more for the people who don't say anything at all. But it's hard to tell who is on the far end of things, who might be next, when most if not every single one of us is at least a bit suicidal. Even passively. I'm not looking to actually kill myself, but if a bus were to slam into me head on? Don't know if I would mind much.",

 

"Sailor J: Join the flight deck diving team. Head first into concrete. MCPON said to lower my expectations? Ok, well, lower your expectations too, the expectations of reenlistment and survival of the crew. There isn't a shred of support. I feel like I'm drowning in the BS they spit out of their mouths. It's all a lie to try and maintain public perception. Perceive this; your PR politics are killing us. This is just a portion of what is going on, but hey, we are desperate for help, for change, for just the chance to get it all off or our chest. Sorry if it was a bit messy, but I hope it helps a bit.",

 

I'm thankful for the Brandon Act, but it seems that many of these sailors are still afraid to seek help through official channels. It's so sad!",