Over the past three years, 68 sailors have died by suicide in the Navy’s Mid-Atlantic Region. Roughly 34% of active duty Navy is based around Norfolk, but over 38% of the deaths happened in the area, according to data provided by the Navy.

Among the deaths, Petty Officer Patrick Scott Kremer of Hawaii died by suicide in the parking lot of Lancaster Farms in Suffolk on Easter Sunday — April 9, 2023. He used a firearm.

His death has been the one suicide by a sailor assigned to the USS John C. Stennis since the carrier arrived at the shipyard at Newport News in May 2021, according to Naval Criminal Investigative Services. 

The Stennis followed the USS George Washington into the shipyard for its midlife overhaul. The Washington made headlines when three sailors died in one month in 2022.

Overall 11 sailors died by suicide from the time the aircraft carrier entered the yard tin 2017 to when it pulled out in May. 

A Navy task force recommended 48 changes, many of them geared toward improving shipyard life for rank and file sailors. Lack of access to mental health resources was cited as a major issue. 

“Today, Stennis sailors can get routine appointments with medical within 10 days. Sailors also can be seen the same day for sick call for urgent and emergent care,” said Adm. Christopher Gray, commander of Navy’s Mid-Atlantic Region, during a recent roundtable.

The Stennis set up its own orientation process to help onboard new sailors arriving at the carrier while it’s under repair. The Training University, or Training U, gives sailors an overview of the command and teaches the responsibilities sailors face while living in the yard.

After Navy reports documented the horrible living conditions on board ships undergoing reconstruction, a Navy task force has already recommended more sailors be assigned to off-ship housing during maintenance.

A 30-year-old berthing barge will still house crew members on duty. Up to 300 of the ship’s 2,500 crew are on duty each day and many stay overnight, according to the Navy. 

Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers undergo a midlife overhaul 25 years into their 50-year lifespan. The process is expected to take four years, but the lingering supply chain impact of COVID-19 is expected to stretch the Stennis’ time in the yard. The same problems kept the Washington in maintenance for over six years.