PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - As COVID-free Sailors move aboard to prepare the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) to go back to sea and execute their mission, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet commander and the fleet master chief visited the crew to see the operation firsthand and thank the Sailors for their resilience and dedication in getting the “Big Stick” back in the fight.
Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. John Aquilino and Pacific Fleet Master Chief James Honea arrived in Guam on May 1.
“The Sailors on Theodore Roosevelt have been on the front line fighting this invisible adversary never before experienced by our Navy,” said Aquilino. “These patriots on TR have not only fulfilled their solemn oath to the constitution by fighting all enemies, they have also provided extremely important information enabling our medical experts to develop solutions to this virus for the entire nation.”
The visit included time aboard the ship to see the extensive work that went into disinfecting the aircraft carrier. Aquilino and Honea also spent the day participating in small-group discussions with Sailors, answered questions, and addressed their concerns.
“I am incredibly proud of the ongoing effort to get this crew healthy and take back their ship,” said Aquilino. “TR has laid the foundation for a “get well” road map for the Navy to refine as we continue to learn about operating in this evolving environment.”
After the ship’s arrival to Guam on March 27, approximately 700 Sailors remained on board to maintain critical operations and begin the cleaning process. The ship underwent an aggressive, cleaning regimen, which balanced effective decontamination with protecting the ship’s critical systems. Spaces that did not need to be manned were vacated for seven days – four days longer than the minimum recommended by the Centers for Disease Control – before being thoroughly disinfected. For spaces that were continuously operational, Sailors cleaned the area before leaving it, while the incoming Sailors cleaned it immediately upon arrival.
Honea said he was impressed with the resilience and pride he saw in the Sailors.
“Our adversaries may think they have an edge on us due to the virus outbreak, but from what I’ve seen, I have no doubt this crew has proven them wrong,” said Honea.
To return to the ship, the 4,000 Sailors who were in quarantine or isolation off-ship tested negative twice after completing their observation period. Sailors are returning to the ship in waves over the span of the next several days, as the 700 Sailors who have been cleaning and running essential services will begin their isolation. But, Aquilino said, returning to the ship means adjusting to a new normal.
“The world is going to be dealing with this virus for a while. We have to act, think, and operate differently,” Aquilino said. “We must adjust shipboard operations to make us a harder target from this invisible threat in the future.”
In addition to visiting the ship, Aquilino and Honea met with the Governor of Guam, where they expressed appreciation to the island’s government and residents.
“We are so thankful for the support and hospitality the leadership and people of Guam have shown our Sailors,” said Aquilino. “No one had any experience with anything like this, and they worked with us side-by-side as we developed a strategy to give TR the support it needed.”
Aquilino and Honea toured the medical facilities on the island, starting with the Field Hospital managed by U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, and the Expeditionary Medical Facility constructed by the 30th Naval Construction Regiment.
“Between our joint medical personnel, the Seabees, and the Marines, this has been an all-hands-on-deck fight,” said Honea. “This is what it means to be shipmates. This is the Navy, Marine Corps team, and joint force working together.”
They also visited the TR Sailors who have tested negative for COVID-19 quarantining in the local hotels and they visited the isolation areas designated for those Sailors who are COVID-19 positive.
“I want to personally thank all of you for your resiliency and your toughness,” Aquilino said. “Your contributions to our Nation’s understanding of this virus will save countless lives.”
Aquilino also expressed his appreciation to the TR families for their commitment and continued support which allowed our Sailors to focus on the challenging task at hand. “We lost a shipmate in Chief Thacker,” Aquilino added. “Our hearts remain with his family, and I know the TR crew shares a resolve to not let his death be in vain.”
As the healthy Sailors return to the ship, they are making preparations to get the ship back underway. USS Theodore Roosevelt is home ported in San Diego, California, and departed Jan. 17 for a regularly scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.