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To boost morale during their 18-month maintenance stay in Bremerton, Washington, crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt went on hikes, skied and hit the links.

“I’m a golfer,” Capt. Brian Schrum told reporters after the nuclear-powered ship he’s commanded for five months returned Thursday to North Island. “So for me and many of our sailors, we [played] a lot of the great courses out there.”

But for many of the 2,000 sailors and civilians debarking, reuniting with families in Coronado was “an absolutely fantastic thing,” Schrum said. 

“Knowing that we were on our way back here to Coronado” was the biggest morale-lifter, he said.

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Dotty Ault peered through binoculars as the carrier rolled into San Diego Bay.

She plans to watch March Madness with her husband, Cmdr. John Ault, ship’s chaplain. Being originally from Indiana, they are naturally hoops fans.

But most important, she “just wants to be in the same space” as her husband, “sharing life together.”

A sailor signals affection to her shipmates.
A sailor signals affection to her shipmates. Photo by Chris Stone

The chaplain’s mother also was on the pier waiting. “It’s exciting to be here,” said Barbara Ault.

While she names sacrifices Navy military members make, including family connections on holidays and special days, Barbara Ault said: “But I know it has been a good life for them. And I am very proud of what he is doing.”

Skipper Schrum, having taken the ship back to sea this week after “two longer winter periods” at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, said the Big Stick “performed very very, very well.”

He expressed pride in his crew and thanks for the hospitality in Bremerton and Kitsap, but was “really looking forward to being back here in the San Diego area.”

Schrum’s in-laws from Nashville, Tennessee were also on the pier to greet him.

“He’s a wonderful guy,” said John Geer, his father-in-law. “It’s a great ship. He’s the CO. He has a lot of responsibility and does it marvelously well.”

Schrum was asked about the Roosevelt , launched in 1984, now being able to accommodate the Navy’s most advanced warplanes — the third carrier on the West Coast to boast them.

“I think having the F-35 — our fifth-generation fighter — and then also the Osprey … provides just another increased capability on not just for the ship but also for the air wing and for the strike group,” he said.

“And so that modernization and the capabilities they bring are definitely going to help us really tackle any challenges that we proceed once we get underway during our workups and deployment.”

He said he was grateful for those assets, and “I’m looking forward to seeing them fly around the ship.”

Schrum couldn’t talk about his ship’s next deployment except to say it would be “within the next year or so.”

“As you know, there’s a process that we have to go through with our ship and air wing team on our strike group to kind of keep getting us prepared,” he said. “It’s going to take some time to get back into the operational mindset. And so that’s we’re going to concentrate on next — after finishing out the maintenance.”

Jan and Mark Workman came down from the Bay Area to see their daughter, Molly Cruz, step off the ship.

Both being Air Force veterans, the Workmans appreciate their 25-year-old daughter’s choice to be in the military.

“It’s always scary when your child could be in harm’s way. But we were both in the military. We understand what it is to serve, and we’re happy that she’s doing it,” Mark Workman said.

While in dry dock, the giant warship was upgraded with new guns, radar and electronic warfare systems, and modified to support the new F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter and future unmanned aircraft.

Below the flight deck, the crew living quarters and bathrooms were completely refurbished, and preventative maintenance was performed on the hull, rudders and propulsion shafts.

Schrum didn’t have a figure for the number of new sailors on the carrier.

“There’s a natural rotation for sailors to kind of come and go off the ship — we had a lot of rotation and a lot of turnover from the last time the ship was underway as we got up to Bremerton,” he said.

“That’s all part of the experience of getting back to sea and kind of crawling and then walking and then running.”

On the ship’s bridge, he could tell “we’ve got a lot of young, just newly qualified individuals. But as you could see today, they did a great job getting the ship back into port.”

Despite its age, the Roosevelt’s rehab will keep her in the “forefront of the fight for the United States Navy for many, many, many months and years to come,” the skipper said.