USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors roam free on Guam for first time since COVID-19 outbreak
Stars and Stripes February 7, 2024
The USS Theodore Roosevelt steamed into Guam’s Apra Harbor on Tuesday for a scheduled port call, where its crew may explore the island for the first time since it was sidelined there during a major COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
The aircraft carrier was joined by the guided-missile destroyer USS Daniel K. Inouye and a second destroyer, the USS Kidd, was scheduled to arrive “shortly thereafter,” a spokesman for Carrier Strike Group Nine, Lt. Cmdr. Ben Anderson, told Stars and Stripes by email Wednesday.
The ship last visited Guam in February 2021, but sailors at the time were not allowed to leave a quarantined area, he said.
They’re under no such restrictions during this port call.
“Port visits to Guam are a regular occurrence for the U.S. Navy. While here, our Sailors look forward to interacting with the local population and enjoying a much-deserved break in operations,” Anderson said.
In March 2020, the Navy ordered the Theodore Roosevelt to Guam after at least 39 crewmembers tested positive for COVID-19 following a four-day stop in Vietnam — and just weeks after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.
The virus soon spread throughout the crew, and ultimately more than 1,150 of the ship’s nearly 5,000 sailors were infected, and one died.
The ship remained on Guam until May that year, in a saga that saw sailors move from the ship to hotels in an attempt to stymie the virus’ spread.
After writing a letter to his superior officers, then-commander Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved of duty by Thomas Modly, acting secretary of the Navy. Modly himself later resigned following a backlash for criticizing Crozier while addressing the carrier’s crew.
The ship’s arrival on Tuesday came just a day after the Air Force launched a joint exercise, Cope North, alongside the Marine Corps and Navy that includes 1,700 U.S. personnel and 700 troops from Australia, Canada, France, South Korea and Japan.
The carrier, however, will not be participating in the exercise, Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman 1st Lt. Alyssa Letts said in a text message Wednesday.
The port visit is a “routine operation” that’s “part of the U.S. Navy’s regular presence throughout the Indo-Pacific,” the strike group commander, Rear Adm. Christopher Alexander, said in a statement emailed by Anderson.