3 USS Ronald Reagan sailors from same department attempted suicide in fall 2022
Stars and Stripes February 22, 2023
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Three sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan attempted suicide over a three-month period last year, according to a Navy spokesman.
A spokesman for the carrier confirmed some of what an enlisted sailor raised during a Feb. 10 meeting at Yokosuka, the 7th Fleet’s headquarters south of Tokyo and the Ronald Reagan’s homeport.
The sailor, who identified herself as a hospital corpsman 1st class aboard the carrier, asked the Navy’s senior enlisted leader, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy James Honea, why the Navy did not investigate five suicide attempts, “all from the same department and division,” aboard the carrier.
“That strikes me as something isn’t right,” she said during Honea’s all-hands call at the Fleet Theater. “I work in a pretty tough division, but I’m pretty supported by my department. So, I’m just a little confused as to why there wasn’t an investigation if there were five suicide attempts in three months.”
Honea said he was unaware of the situation and promised the corpsman he would “look into it.” He did not respond to emailed requests for comment between Feb. 16 and Wednesday.
The Ronald Reagan’s spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Phillip Chitty, said three sailors assigned to the carrier attempted suicide between September and November. All worked in the same department, which he declined to identify, but not in the same division, he said in an email to Stars and Stripes on Feb. 15.
On Wednesday, 7th Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Kristina Wiedemann said the Ronald Reagan investigated the attempts but won’t identify the department involved to protect the sailors’ privacy.
“We conducted investigations into each of these cases,” she told Stars and Stripes by email. “In each case, underlying causes were found to be case specific and not related.”
The Navy aims to prevent suicide by “focusing our leaders on the problem, providing better access to care, empowering a culture of peer-to-peer support, and overcoming the stigma around mental health care in the Navy,” she said.
Wiedemann said resources are available for sailors, such as the Veterans Crisis Line, Navy Chaplain Care, Military One Source and others.
Chitty said sailor focus groups were held by specialists from command support groups after the suicide attempts.
“Leadership at all levels aboard USS Ronald Reagan remains committed to the mental and physical health and well-being of its Sailors,” he wrote in the email.
Wiedemann said no suicides occurred among sailors assigned to the Ronald Reagan during 2022.
Suicide remains a serious problem within the U.S. military. In fiscal year 2021, 519 service members died by suicide, according to a Defense Department study released Oct. 20. Of those, 58 were in the Navy.
Suicide has claimed the lives of at least 10 sailors since April, five aboard two other U.S. carriers, according to recent news reports.
Two crewmembers aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, undergoing repairs and maintenance at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington, died by suicide Dec. 5 and Jan. 18, according to a Jan. 27 report by Military.com.
Those deaths are still under investigation, Lt. Cmdr. Ben Anderson, spokesman for Carrier Strike Group Nine, told Stars and Stripes by email Friday. He said he could not confirm the manner of death until the investigation is complete; he also said that “no investigation” into the mental health and wellbeing of the ship’s crew had been opened.
“Leadership at all levels on our ship are actively engaging with sailors to ensure they and their families are aware of and receive all the resources available to them when they are in need, and to ensure a climate of trust and transparency that encourages sailors to ask for help when they need it,” Anderson said in the email.
Three suicides in April among the crew of the carrier USS George Washington, docked in Virginia for long-term maintenance, raised questions in Congress and sparked a Pentagon investigation.