By Capt. Craig Clapperton
Commanding officer, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)
As deployment comes to a close, I think it is important to look back on our ship, our accomplishments and the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). This year marked the ship’s 29th birthday and all these years later she is still a remarkable piece of engineering. She towers hundreds of feet above the waterline, stretches 1,092 feet from stem to stern and her flight deck is 252 feet across at her widest point. Displacing more than 95,000 tons of seawater, she is a giant, yet in the open water she is graceful. She has also been a home away from home for tens of thousands of Sailors over the last 29 years.
Theodore Roosevelt is a storied vessel; a symbol of American power and prestige, and a potent instrument of American policy. TR and her embarked air wing have proven their combined capability and effectiveness time and time again. She patrolled the waters of the Mediterranean and North Sea during the Cold War. During the Gulf War, she steamed alongside her formidable predecessors the USS Midway, USS Ranger and USS America. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she was there; surging to deploy, delivering the initial strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan. She stayed on station there conducting combat operations for 159 consecutive days – the longest period at sea of any U.S. warship since World War II.
More recently, on March 11, 2015 TR departed Norfolk for a scheduled eight-and-a-half month deployment around the world and a change of homeport to San Diego. After a brief stop in Portsmouth, U.K., the Big Stick steamed to the Arabian Gulf and turned over responsibility with USS Carl Vinson on April 13. On April 16 she began launching sorties against ISIL in Iraq and Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Over the course of six months, the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group carried out 1,812 combat sorties totaling 10,618 combat flight hours while expending 1,085 precision-guided munitions. The numbers reveal an incredibly impressive Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing One team, but we should remember that behind every sortie and every mile steamed there is sweat on the brow and grease on the hands of an American Sailor and Marine.
Our nation has developed the most advanced aircraft, put to sea the most capable warships and fielded the finest Sailors and Marines the world has known. These men and women are the heart of everything we do because a warship is far more than the steel with which she is built. It takes every single crew member doing their part. It takes a team, and the entire Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group team labored tirelessly to make our mission a success.
Here’s a snapshot of what I am talking about:
We have steamed more than 48,000 nautical miles. Deck department flawlessly received 3,906 pallets of ammunition and cargo and took on 14.5 million gallons of jet fuel over the course of 29 underway replenishments. Air department conducted 17,000 total aircraft launches and 955 aircraft elevator movements. Weapons department supplied the air wing with one million pounds of ordnance. Supply department delivered more than 13,000 vital repair parts, while the postal team processed 750 tons of mail. The food service team served 18,000 meals a day, which equates to about 4.4 million meals throughout deployment. The Command Religious Ministries department provided 1,180 religious services across the strike group. Media department documented operations through the release of more than 4,000 photos to social media and other outlets around the world. Medical department performed more than 24,000 outpatient visits and Dental conducted 9,580 exams. We’ve had 340 Sailors advanced to the next highest paygrade and welcomed 950 new Sailors to the team.
Every single statistic is the result of a Sailor or Marine’s hard work and commitment. It is not a ‘sometimes’ thing, or even a ‘most-of-the-time’ thing. The effort, precision and commitment required to be successful is an ‘every-minute-of-every-day’ way of doing business. The crew did an amazing job, getting it done day in and day out with enthusiasm and professionalism. I think we can proudly take our place in Theodore Roosevelt’s history.
But just like our predecessors, we have not only purchased a place in the ship’s history; we have carved out a place in her future. We are part of a legacy, defined by the Sailors and Marines who, for the last 29 years, have walked her deckplates, pushed the ship to her limits and mended her when she was broken. So as we seek to meet and best the standard set by those who have gone before us, we pass on to our reliefs a culture that demands the best and seeks always to improve. Because in the end, no matter how advanced our aircraft or ships become, it will always be the Sailors and Marines who count the most. They make the mission possible and give our service purpose.
Congratulations to the men and women of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group team on a job well done. Thank you for your service and for continuing a legacy that exemplifies the spirit of the U.S. Navy and the meaning of Honor, Courage and Commitment.