The sailors and embarked Marines aboard the amphibious dock landing ship Rushmore have been dealing with a cockroach outbreak for much of 2022, and Navy officials are warning that it could be some time before the pernicious pests are fully eliminated from the ship.
Multiple Rushmore sailors reached out to Navy Times in recent weeks to sound the alarm about the vermin and to share a perception among some crewmembers that the command was indifferent to the problem.
The Rushmore sailors requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from the higher-ups.
One sailor said roaches have been found throughout the ship, but that the infestation is particularly apparent on the mess decks, and that he regularly sees scurrying roaches in the galley near the food trays.
That sailor added that if someone bumps a wall in the galley, several roaches will scurry out.
As a result, the sailor said he rarely eats in the galley these days.
Another sailor said he regularly sees roaches all over the mess decks, including in the kitchen, the scullery and in the vents above the grill.
The sailor said some crew members believe the roaches are causing a recent outbreak of “The Double Dragon,” also known as gastroenteritis, a nasty illness that causes diarrhea, vomiting and fever.
Roaches carry bacteria like salmonella that can cause gastroenteritis, and they also pose an extra risk to asthma sufferers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
Rushmore’s battle with The Double Dragon isn’t believed to have been caused by the roach infestation, according to Lt. Cmdr. Andrew DeGarmo, a spokesman for the Japan-based Expeditionary Strike Group 7, Rushmore’s parent command.
“The ship’s leadership has no indications from onboard medical professionals that the small number of gastroenteritis cases on the ship are a direct result of the pests,” he said in an email.
Aside from the health risks, one Rushmore sailor said the vermin affects morale because it is “gross” knowing that the pests are comingling in the ship’s food areas.
That sailor said he doesn’t want to get anyone in trouble but also doesn’t understand why things have gotten so bad.
Multiple Rushmore sailors said they felt as if the command was ignoring the infestation in order to make the mission.
“I know it’s the military and conditions aren’t always ideal, but roaches are definitely something I feel as if we can control,” he told Navy Times.
DeGarmo said the roach issue was first identified in April and that the ship “immediately enacted measures to work towards the eradication of pests.”
But Rushmore being underway has prevented a full fumigation of the ship due to safety concerns about the required “pesticide spreading through ventilation and contaminating food preparation areas,” he said.
“Because of these concerns, the pest control measures the ship is able to safely employ take longer to have a significant effect on the pests,” DeGarmo said. “The ship is planning for ship-wide, professional fumigation services once current operations are complete.”
DeGarmo did not specify when that will be, but said in an email Tuesday that the ship “continues to see a decline in live pests, indicating eradication efforts are effective.”
In the meantime, the ship’s crew is taking “appropriate additional corrective measures” to treat the affected spaces, and are inspecting them daily, he said.
“Ship’s leadership has and will continue to implement measures, like food storage, safety and consumption restrictions throughout the ship, to prevent pests,” DeGarmo said.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at email@example.com.