Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 2nd Class Jesse Hawkins, from Chicago, right, assigned to the Liberty Bells of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115, fits Vice Adm. Bill Merz, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, for an oxygen mask aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Photo credit: Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Robyn B. Melvin

The remaining sailors from the San Diego-based USS Theodore Roosevelt who stayed ashore in Guam following a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the carrier fly back to the United States starting Friday, according to the Navy.

The carrier resumed its scheduled deployment in the Indo-Pacific last Thursday. A few hundred sailors had remained in Guam to continue receiving medical care.

The Navy says those service members will take military flights to the U.S. They will be required to complete a two-week “restriction-of-movement sequester.” That may take place either at home or at facilities on base at their home station.

The ship departed San Diego on Jan. 17 for a deployment. It was diverted to Guam on March 27 when the COVID-19 outbreak took hold. It ultimately infected more than 1,100 sailors, killing one, Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Charles Thacker, 41.

The ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, made a much-publicized plea for assistance from Navy leadership in a letter that was leaked to the press. That led to his removal from command of the ship.

While many have called for his reinstatement, the Navy has stated that its investigation into the circumstances behind the letter’s leak is ongoing.

Crozier has since been reassigned to the Naval Air Forces in San Diego. Thomas Modly, the former Acting Secretary of the Navy who fired Crozier, resigned after he criticized Crozier to the ship’s crew. The speech leaked online.

The ship briefly went to sea June 2 to complete carrier qualifications. It then returned to Apra Harbor in Guam two days later to pick up around 1,000 sailors.

Navy officials said the carrier now operates with new COVID-19 standard operating procedures. They modify how crew members move through the ship, expand meal hours and establish new social distancing rules.

“The crew humbly prepared to go back to sea, they had a job to do, and they did it without hesitation,” the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Carlos Sardiello, said. “We have returned Theodore Roosevelt to sea as a symbol of hope and inspiration, and an instrument of national power because we are TR.”

– City News Service