Navy staff instructor at Great Lakes dies of coronavirus complications

Chief Petty Officer Herbert Rojas is the 21st service member and one of three active-duty sailors to die from the virus since the pandemic began last year.


By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 5, 2021

Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.

WASHINGTON — A 50-year-old staff instructor is the third active-duty sailor to die from the coronavirus, the Navy announced Friday.

Chief Petty Officer Herbert Rojas, who served as a quartermaster, died Tuesday at his off-base residence due to complications associated with the virus, according to a statement Friday from Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Ill.

The Great Lakes location is the sole boot camp for the Navy.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and shipmate Chief Rojas, and we will continue supporting his family and friends during this time of grief,” Capt. Erik Thors, the commanding officer of the Recruit Training Command, said in the statement.

Rojas is the 21st service member and one of three active-duty sailors to die from the virus since the pandemic began last year. Petty Officer Second Class Cody Andrew-Godfredson Myers, assigned to the USS Tennessee, a ballistic-missile submarine based in Kings Bay, Ga., died Thursday, according to the Navy. Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 41, was a sailor assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier when he died April 13 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam.

Rojas tested positive as a result of the command’s sentinel surveillance testing program that is done for all staff members, Lt. Cmdr. Phillip Chitty, a spokesman for Naval Service Training Command, wrote Friday in an email. Each week, 10 percent of the staff is tested and everyone is eventually tested during a 10-week period. Chitty could not say when Rojas tested positive and did not know whether he had ever been hospitalized due to the virus.

A native of Richmond Hill, N.Y., Rojas enlisted in the Navy in August 2001 and served on several ships, including the USS Mount Vernon dock landing ship, the USS Monsoon coastal patrol ship, the USS Tempest coastal patrol ship, and the USS Michael Murphy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, according to details from his service record.

Rojas had been assigned to Recruit Training Command since 2018 and was promoted to chief petty officer January 2019. His awards include the enlisted surface warfare specialist pin, four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Navy “E” Ribbon, six Good Conduct Medals, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and seven Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

Twitter: @caitlinmkenney