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Navy makes quality of life upgrades for shipyard sailors

Micro Mart, berthing barge added at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Improvements come in wake of recent rash of suicides where quality of life was cited as a cause.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Navy is making some modest but meaningful upgrades for sailors' quality of life at its shipyard.

The improvements are coming as the Navy tries to learn from six suspected suicides among the USS George Washington crew in April and May, while their ship was under repair at Newport News Shipbuilding. 

Quality of life -- particularly for sailors stationed at shipyards -- was cited as a cause.

At Norfolk Naval Shipyard on Monday, the first ribbon-cutting of the day was at the new Navy Exchange Micro Market, kind of like a 7-Eleven where sailors can get a much-needed cup of coffee, candy bar or soda. It sells things that simply hit the spot.

"I think it's pretty awesome because I don't always bring lunch to work with me so now I can literally run out of my building to grab something to eat," said Engineman 2nd Class Elizabeth Gallegos, who is stationed at the shipyard.

RELATED: Parents of 'Brandon Act' sailor react to suspected suicides on USS George Washington

Next up was the ribbon-cutting for a new berthing barge.

The 269-foot-long vessel will serve as "home away from home" to 609 enlisted personnel and officers while their ships are in the yard. The barge includes everything from a gym to lounges, to a shiny galley and a barber shop.

"I think they'll have a great experience, being that it's a brand new barge, and everything is top of the line," said CS1 Anna Perozo, a sailor aboard USS Harry S. Truman.

Navy leaders said they are very satisfied with the enhancements and how they will help sailors' quality of life.

"I think we've learned in the last couple of years how important that is," said Admiral Daryl Caudle, U.S. Fleet Forces Commander. "We've taken on some aggressive actions following the incidents on George Washington."

Rear Admiral William Greene, U.S. Fleet Forces Maintenance Officer, agreed.

"It's actually important, taking care of our sailors is our number one mission," he said. "Sailors are the center of the universe for us."

The new barge offers 400 computer drops and Wi-Fi.

The first inhabitants of the vessel will be duty section sailors from the Truman, when it enters the Naval shipyard in the weeks ahead.

RELATED: Keel-laying ceremony held for Navy submarine Arkansas at Newport News Shipbuilding

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