USS Theodore Roosevelt is returning to its homeport of San Diego Tuesday from its second deployment in two years and following a stint in the spotlight due to a COVID-19 outbreak that grounded the ship for months.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier deployed in December 2020 for the South China Sea with about 4,800 sailors. Earlier that year, the Roosevelt was deployed in January 2020 to the Indo-Pacific -- just before a pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization.
Just months into the ship's first deployment, it was stricken by an outbreak of COVID-19, which infected about 1,271 sailors forcing the ship to pull into Guam early and sending half of the ship's crew to quarantine on land. One crew member died.
Two months went by before the Roosevelt could return to sea.
The Department of Defense's inspector general blamed the ship's management team for the outbreak, saying in a watchdog report that commanders failed to enforce social distancing and proper quarantining that aggravated the outbreak.
The incident led to the firing of Capt. Brett Crozier after a letter he sent to navy leadership criticizing their response to the outbreak was leaked to the press. He was replaced by Capt. Carlos Sardiello, who took over as the ship returned to sea in May 2020.
During its second deployment, three sailors tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the isolation of several sailors. The Navy said, unlike the first time, the Roosevelt was following an aggressive mitigation strategy and no other outbreaks were reported.
"We met the challenges that COVID-19 brought head-on and successfully deployed forward to work with our allies and partners from Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea," said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine.
The countries joined together to conduct training exercises to build their capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region. At other points in the ship's deployment, it joined with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group to conduct various operations.
The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group also includes USS Bunker Hill, Destroyer Squadron 23, Carrier Air Wing 11 and USS Russell.
The Roosevelt's sailors have been at sea for about seven months before its return to San Diego on Tuesday.