May 1st, 2020, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander ADM. John Aquilino and Fleet Master Chief FLTCM. James Hornea arrived in Guam to visit the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) aircraft carrier, currently docked at Naval Base Guam after pulling into port over a month ago for initiating COVID-19 quarantine and deep-clean measures.
ADM. Aquilino and FLTCM. Hornea spent time aboard the carrier to observe firsthand the extensive disinfection work being carried out by approximately 700 Sailors, who remained on the vessel even as the 4,000-odd crew disembarked onto Guam for their 14-day isolation in Naval Base housing and other designated lodging facilities.
The shipwide disinfection task force was led by the carrier’s Weapon Officer CMDR. Chad Hollinger, who the crew now affectionately calls “Mr. Clean”, and Aviation Ordnanceman MCPO. Patrick Maxie. They begin and end each day with an aggressive cleaning process called “Bleach-a-Palooza”, using a potent mix of bleach, disinfectant, cleaning sprays, tough wipes and rags to neutralize the virus. Roving teams transit the carrier equipped with the chemical mix and Personal Protective Equipment, disinfecting spaces along the way; Sailors clean spaces behind them as they leave, and others cleaning ahead as they enter. Non-critical spaces were sealed off for seven days after disinfection as a precautionary measure, four days more than the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) disinfection guideline. One of the Sailors responsible for mixing and issuing cleaning solution for the crew said: “It’s an all hands effort and everyone is trying their best. Supply and medical work hand-in-hand to monitor every department on the ship to make sure they’re cleaning twice a day. If they want to clean after hours we support that as well”.
According to CMDR. Hollinger, large area cleaning sprays have been the most helpful tool in his shipwide cleaning mission. Armed with these area sprays, the cleaning teams were able to cover spaces that do not hold large equipment, such as a mess deck or berthing, in one-third of the time it would have taken them to do so by hand.
Having witnessed the cleaning crew’s work, ADM. Aquilino expressed his appreciation and confidence in them: “The Sailors on Theodore Roosevelt have been on the front line fighting this invisible adversary never before experienced by our Navy. These patriots on TR have not only fulfilled their solemn oath to the constitution by fighting all enemies, they have also provided extremely important information enabling our medical experts to develop solutions to this virus for the entire nation… I am incredibly proud of the ongoing effort to get this crew healthy and take back their ship. TR has laid the foundation for a ‘get well’ road map for the Navy to refine as we continue to learn about operating in this evolving environment”.
FLTCM. Hornea was impressed by the crew’s resilience, saying: “Our adversaries may think they have an edge on us due to the virus outbreak, but from what I’ve seen, I have no doubt this crew has proven them wrong”.
In order to return to the carrier, isolated Sailors will have to test negative for COVID-19 twice in a row after completing their observation period. The Pacific Fleet Command is not taking any chances with the safety of the crew; Sailors who test negative but show signs of illness will be turned away at the pier. The 4,000 or so Sailors are slated to board the carrier in batches, spread over the coming days to maintain safe distancing.
ADM. Aquilino and FLTCM. Hornea also paid a visit to medical facilities on Guam, namely the Field Hospital managed by Naval Hospital Guam, and the Expeditionary Medical Facility constructed by the 30th Naval Construction Regiment. “Between our joint medical personnel, the Seabees, and the Marines, this has been an all-hands-on-deck fight,” spoke the Fleet Master Chief.
Additionally, the Pacific Fleet Command Team visited the Governor of Guam to express their gratitude for his government’s assistance. “We are so thankful for the support and hospitality the leadership and people of Guam have shown our Sailors,” said ADM. Aquilino.
Expressing his appreciation to the Sailors undergoing isolation, the Admiral stated: “I want to personally thank all of you for your resiliency and your toughness. We lost a shipmate in Chief Thacker. Our hearts remain with his family, and I know the TR crew shares a resolve to not let his death be in vain. Your contributions to our Nation’s understanding of this virus will save countless lives”.