Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced on Tuesday that the USS Harry S. Truman and its accompanying strike group will remain at sea despite its deployment already drawing to a close, amid growing concerns about the state of readiness among America’s carrier fleet.
The decision to extend the Truman’s tour at sea comes shortly after a U.S. Navy sailor assigned to the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt died as a result of coronavirus related complications, with one other currently in intensive care and 485 others testing positive for the virus.
“We made a decision, the [Secretary of Defense] made a decision and the Navy made a decision to keep the Harry S. Truman at sea so that we had at least two carriers at sea at a moment’s notice,” Milley told the press on Tuesday.
“We’ll keep the Harry S. Truman at sea until next up, which is the Nimitz, sets sail, which we expect to set sail shortly. That was a conscious, deliberative, operational decision in order to make sure that we had carrier strike group capability at sea.”
The Truman strike group will now remain in the Western Atlantic, prepared to rapidly respond to any crises that may need its attention. For many sailors assigned to the strike group, this news likely comes as a disappointment, but the Navy believes keeping the Truman at sea offers the best possible protection from the coronavirus spreading onto the Truman or any of its accompanying vessels.
“After completing a successful deployment we would love nothing more than to be reunited with our friends and families,” said Rear Admiral Andrew Loiselle, commander of Carrier Strike Group 8.
“We recognize that these are unique circumstances and the responsible thing to do is to ensure we are able to answer our nation’s call while ensuring the health and safety of our Sailors. We thank you for your continued love and support as we remain focused on this important mission.”
The other vessels in the Truman carrier strike group include the guided-missile destroyers Forrest Sherman, Farragut, and Lassen, as well as the guided-missile cruiser Normandy.
“The ship is entering a period in which it needs to be ready to respond and deploy at any time,” said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander U.S. 2nd Fleet. “Normally we can do that pierside, but in the face of COVID-19, we need to protect our most valuable asset, our people, by keeping the ship out to sea.”