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Aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt(CVN-71) pulled into its berth at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., on Tuesday morning, completing its second overseas deployment in 16 months.
The carrier, flagship for the Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, had left San Diego in October 2020 for a final set of pre-deployment training exercises before officially beginning deployment operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet and 3rd Fleet regions. The strike group included Carrier Air Wing 11, Destroyer Squadron 23, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG-59).
In returning home, the strike group fully completed its scheduled overseas deployment, a different outcome from its early 2020 deployment that was cut short by a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the carrier.
“When we were coming home from the last deployment, I had to tell the crew that they’re coming back to a very different America than they left, because while we were gone, COVID had struck,” Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, the Carrier Strike Group 9 commander, told USNI News by phone as Roosevelt it made its way into San Diego Bay Tuesday morning. “We were coming back to our home country, where we were requiring masks and we didn’t really have that freedom of movement to do the things that sailors like to do when you get back from a seven-month deployment.”
But this time, Verissimo said, he got to tell them that “we’re coming back to America that is different than the one we left. Things are opening back up, not completely, but our sailors are really excited.”
After so many months of isolation – for some, lasting more than a year – strike group personnel are reuniting with their families and friends in less-restrictive environments. Some sailors already are vaccinated for COVID-19, having received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine offered a month ago, Verissimo said. Other sailors have been asking for the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines as well, “and we’ve got a ‘shot-ex’ coming up” this week ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.