The USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Philippine Sea after leaving Guam. Navy photo

The USS Theodore Roosevelt left Guam and operated at sea for the first time since it docked March 27 after a coronavirus outbreak that infected over 1,000 crew members.

The San Diego-based aircraft carrier left Naval Base Guam and entered the Philippine Sea on Thursday morning local time to conduct carrier qualification flights for the embarked Carrier Air Wing 11.

“It feels great to be back at sea,” said Rear Adm. Stu Baker, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9. “Getting Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing 11 one step closer to returning to their mission in the Indo-Pacific is a great achievement for the crew.”

After moving nearly 4,000 crewmembers to hotels on shore and cleaning the entire ship from bow to stern, the appropriate number of crewmembers to operate the giant, nuclear-powered vessel have returned from quarantine after passing rigorous return-to-work criteria.

“We are scaling our manning on board based on our mission requirement,” said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer. “Carrier qualification requires fewer personnel than other missions, and bringing fewer sailors on board will enable enhanced social distancing while underway.”

In addition to social distancing, sailors will execute Navy COVID prevention and mitigation policies, including wearing masks, medical surveillance of 100% of the crew, adjusted meal hours, minimal in-person meetings and sanitizing of living spaces.

“We are extremely thankful for the dedicated support and hospitality of Gov. Leon Guerrero, her staff and the people Guam,”  said Sardiello. “They have been steadfast and proactive partners throughout.”

The ship departed San Diego for a scheduled deployment Jan. 17. It docked in Guam after former Capt. Brett Crozier pleaded with the Navy for help with the outbreak. Crozier was fired after his memo was leaked to the press, but his case is under review.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.