Imagine you are sailing aboard a six billion dollar American attack submarine, a 353 feet long and 40 feet wide steel tube, which is considered to be one of the most elite submarines in the US Navy. It is a stressful, onerous place to be for months at a time.
Now imagine you finish your duty hours and go to your living quarters for a good rest, you change and get on the bed but can’t sleep peacefully. Reason— BEDBUGS!
You never thought that a $6 Billion Dollars technologically advanced submarine could be infested with bedbugs but surprisingly that is the case onboard USS Connecticut.
A complaint was first filed in December 2020 after crew members reported bedbugs onboard while the submarine was moored at Naval Base Kitsap- Bremerton in Washington. After more than a month of the complain, the bedbugs were identified physically by a team of preventive medicine technicians which was called from Naval Hospital Bremerton to search the submarine. After identification, clothes got laundered, mattresses were replaced and all floors and linens received full chemical treatment to eradicate the bedbugs.
But the Navy’s efforts have not checked the concerns of the crew members, some of whom have been sleeping on cots and chairs in a pier-side shelter erected as temporary quarters to avoid getting bitten in the submarine “racks” where people sleep.
The petty officer told Navy Times that commanding officers on board initially didn’t believe claims of bed bugs because ‘we didn’t have proof.’ Two other petty officers assigned to the USS Connecticut corroborated the first petty officer’s claims that the infestation started in March of last year.
‘People were getting eaten alive in their racks,’ one petty officer said.
Another petty officer added: ‘The best way to put it would probably be “employee abuse,” but that’s not really a thing in the Navy, I guess.’
A spokesperson for the Naval Submarine Forces Pacific, Commander Cynthia Fields, disputed the petty officer’s comments.
Fields said that the issue of bed bugs was first reported in December and that the ‘physical presence’ of the insects wasn’t detected on board until February 19. ‘Navy criteria for treating submarines or ships requires physical presence of bed bugs to establish existence,’ Fields told Navy Times.
‘If someone’s sleep deprived because they’re in the rack getting eaten alive by bed bugs, he could fall asleep at (the controls) and run us into an underwater mountain,’ one of the petty officers told Navy Times.
The officer said that morale aboard the submarine is low due to the perception among the rank-and-file that the high command has not provided sufficient support to the sailors. But Fields disputes the notion that the senior leadership was slow to respond, saying that the command ‘acted swiftly.’
Bedbugs are oval-shaped insects, about one-quarter inch long when fully grown, that feed on blood from humans and some animals. They often take up residence in beds, where they may leave small spots that mark their presence.
The USS Connecticut is one of three Seawolf-class submarines which are considered to be the most capable attack subs in the world. The Seawolf subs’ can reportedly dive to 2,000 feet, their hulls are made of advanced HY-100 steel alloy. Such an advanced submarine— and a problem as inconceivable as BEDBUGS!