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USS Theodore Roosevelt sails west for second deployment this year

Aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier)

After leaving its home port of San Diego more than two weeks ago, the Navy announced the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has officially begun its second deployment in less than a year.

The ship and its more than 5,500 sailors have been operating off the coast of California since leaving its berth at Naval Air Station North Island Dec. 7. It began sailing west on Wednesday, the Navy said in a statement.

“We are at the highest state of readiness to support America’s interests around the world at a moment’s notice,” said Capt. Eric Anduze, the ship’s commanding officer.

This deployment caps a year marked by controversy and tragedy for the ship and its crew.

The Roosevelt left San Diego in January 2020 for a routine deployment to the western Pacific. Just as the novel coronavirus began spreading worldwide, the ship visited Da Nang, Vietnam. Two weeks later, at the end of March, COVID-19 began to spread out of control among the crew.

The ship diverted to Guam where much of the crew was sequestered in local hotels.

A firestorm of criticism and controversy followed the publication of a letter, written by the ship’s commanding officer at the time, Capt. Brett Crozier, decrying the conditions on board for the crew and questioning the seriousness with which Navy brass were taking the outbreak.

Days after the letter’s publication, Crozier was fired by then-acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly. Modly himself resigned after a speech he gave aboard the ship criticizing Crozier became public.

More than 1,200 sailors would test positive for the virus. Chief Petty Officer Charles Thacker, 41, died from COVID-19 in April.

The ship was sidelined in Guam for two months, only getting back to sea in June. It returned to San Diego in July.

Last month, the ship began preparing to again deploy. That involved thousands of sailors sequestering over the Thanksgiving holidays to prevent the virus from again getting onboard. The ship left San Diego just over two weeks ago. 7.

Three days after leaving San Diego, Airman Apprentice Ethan Goolsby, 20, of San Antonio, fell overboard. The Navy searched for Goolsby for three days before declaring the sailor dead. His remains were not found. Goolsby had only reported to the Roosevelt in July.

Sailing with the Roosevelt’s strike group is the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and guided missile destroyers USS Russell and USS John Finn, all based in San Diego.

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(c) 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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