USS Theodore Roosevelt's Leadership Changes Hands for The Second Time in Four Months

USS Theodore Roosevelt moored pier side at Naval Base Guam
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) is moored pier side at Naval Base Guam May 15, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo/Conner D. Blake)

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has a new commanding officer for the third time since March, four months after a Western Pacific deployment marred by a coronavirus outbreak that ended with a diversion to Guam, a leadership crisis and the death of a sailor.

Capt. Carlos Sardiello, who oversaw recovery efforts aboard the carrier and its eventual return to San Diego, relinquished command of the Theodore Roosevelt on Friday for the second time in less than a year, according to a Navy statement.

Taking his place is Capt. Eric J. Anduze, of Manati, Puerto Rico, who most recently served as executive officer of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, the service said.

Sardiello had helmed the carrier from July 2017 until Capt. Brett Crozier took over in October 2019. Sardiello returned to the carrier in March after Crozier was relieved by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly.

Sardiello referred to the carrier's recent challenges in a farewell message.

"It was a privilege to lead the Rough Riders a second time weathering the storm that engulfed and sidelined Theodore Roosevelt," Sardiello said in the Navy statement.

Crozier was at the helm when the Roosevelt diverted to Guam on March 26 after several sailors tested positive for the coronavirus. Modly removed him after a letter Crozier emailed his Navy superiors pleading for help surfaced in the San Francisco Chronicle soon after.

Video of thousands of Roosevelt sailors chanting Crozier's name as he walked off the carrier for the last time flooded social media. A week later, a recording surfaced of Modly's speech to the Roosevelt's crew criticizing Crozier and calling him "too naive or too stupid." A public backlash ensued and Modly resigned.

Under Sardiello's leadership, the ship remained in Guam two more months as sailors were isolated, tested and treated. Ultimately, more than 1,150 Roosevelt sailors tested positive, one of whom died.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday had considered returning Crozier to command until reviewing the results of a May investigation into the handling of the outbreak. The investigation revealed failures in Crozier's leadership aside from the letter, including a decision to decline opportunities to get sailors off of the ship early because they would not have been sent to single-occupancy rooms like he had requested.

Gilday on June 19 told reporters that Crozier's "determination that onboard quarantine was ineffective should have led to an acceleration of sailors to ashore accommodations. It did not."

Sardiello will return to be director of Joint and Fleet Operations at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, the assignment he held when he was pulled away to take over for Crozier.

"The sailors persevered showing great fortitude in the face of adversity, and reverence and stoicism in remembrance; they have proven that fighting through the threat of infectious disease at sea can be done," Sardiello said of his crew's efforts since March, according to the statement. "The resilience and dedication to mission displayed by our Sailors during this pandemic response was truly remarkable."

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