The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Pacific Ocean while conducting a tailored shipís training availability off the coast of Southern California on April 30, 2017. (file photo)
On any given day, the US aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman can be found off the Atlantic coast of the United States, probably somewhere between Virginia and Florida. Its crew would love to come home to their families. But they canít. Theyíre just too valuable right now.
Thatís because the Truman is a "clean" ship, free from the coronavirus thanks to a longer-than-expected deployment at sea that started in November. The deployment has kept its battle-ready 4,500 crew out of reach of a pandemic that is wreaking havoc elsewhere in the Navy.
Captain Kavon "Hak" Hakimzadeh and members of his crew described to Reuters in exclusive interviews the mixed emotions of being so close to home, but too precious to pull into port, as the Truman settles into a pandemic-driven operational limbo.
The crew members interviewed said they understood why the Truman needed to remain offshore to ensure combat readiness. The virus ripped through another carrier, the Theodore Roosevelt, infecting more than 1,100 sailors.
The hope is that once the Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group is up and running, the Truman can finally come home. But with the coronavirus proving dangerous and the world being unpredictable, the Navy doesnít want to put a date on the Trumanís return.
Being so close to home is a constant reminder for sailors of the strain on their families in the United States, where in just months coronavirus-related deaths have reached at least 62,800, surpassing the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War.
The Pentagon has been trying to warn adversaries that ships such as the Truman are by no means the exception and the US military remains ready for war despite the pandemic.
In some ways, the Truman is perhaps one of the worldís biggest quarantine bubbles. Beyond an increased pace of disinfections on board, the shipís day-to-day activities are much the same as before the pandemic - no testing, no six-feet of space between sailors, according to crew members.
Every entry onto the ship carries risk, so the Truman has stopped everything but essential resupply flights, and under tight controls.
SOURCE: PRESS TV