USS Theodore Roosevelt Leaves the Shipyards After 18 Difficult Months that Included 3 Suicides

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The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has completed a refurbishment in Washington state that lasted more than a year and is heading back to San Diego, the Navy said in a press release Tuesday.

While the achievement is a move toward normalcy for the crew, the end of the shipyard period also closes the book on a difficult chapter that saw three suicides aboard the ship.

In the press release, the ship's commander, Capt. Brian Schrum, said that he was "so grateful for the unrelenting work our crew and our shipyard teammates put into this milestone."

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"Their sacrifices have enabled us to rejoin the Fleet and to get back to being a warship for our nation," he added.

The suicides aboard the Roosevelt were part of a horrifying series of deaths for the Navy among sailors assigned to ships undergoing maintenance, a period that can include arduous and challenging living conditions for sailors. The USS George Washington, a carrier like the Roosevelt, is undergoing an even longer overhaul in a shipyard near Norfolk, Virginia, and has suffered a string of suicides that goes back to at least November 2019.

The family of Electrician's Mate (Nuclear) 3rd Class Jacob Slocum -- a sailor from the Roosevelt who killed himself Dec. 5 -- told in January that the long hours and shipyard conditions contributed to a difficult period that marked the end of Slocum's life.

His family also cited an unsympathetic supervisor -- another common theme in recent stories of sailor suicide.

The 18 months of shipyard work enabled the Navy to upgrade the Roosevelt's flight deck and systems to handle the new F-35C Lightning II fighter jet as well as the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, and CMV-22B Osprey. The Roosevelt will also be able to fly the future MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aircraft system

The ship received upgrades to some of its radars and defensive systems, as well as restoration work of the living quarters and bathrooms.

Before the Roosevelt entered the shipyards, its crew spent the better part of a year and half on deployment.

In January 2020, the ship went to sea on a deployment that made headlines over a COVID-19 outbreak onboard. Two of its crew had died by the time the ship came home to San Diego that July. The commanding officer at the time, Capt. Brett Crozier, was relieved of command over his handling of an emailed warning about the carrier's growing health crisis as COVID-19 cases began to spread rapidly.

Then, in December 2020, the ship went to sea again to return in May 2021. Just two months later, the carrier, along with around 3,000 sailors and their families, were assigned to the shipyards in Bremerton, Washington.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Three More Sailors Die by Suicide While Their Carriers Are Stuck in Shipyards