The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived Monday at its new home port of San Diego.
The 1,092-foot-long carrier known as the "Big Stick" completed what amounts to an epic voyage in which it left its old base in Norfolk, Virginia, more than eight months ago for deployment to the Middle East.
Air squadrons aboard the Roosevelt flew almost 2,000 combat sorties against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, racking up 10,600 flight hours for the crews. Navy Capt. Benjamin Hewlett said they delivered more than 1,800 bombs on target.
“Having experienced both Afghanistan on two different occasions and now Iraq and Syria, the activity as far as bombing these targets was very high. We were delivering bombs on a daily basis,” Hewlett said.
He said targets included vehicles, buildings with leaders from the self-declared Islamic State, artillery or mortar locations, and individual people.
“I’ve seen the change over my 25-year career in how precise we can be between laser-guided bombs and GPS-guided bombs. We can hit a target within feet of it,” Hewlett said.
Most of the action occurred during the summer, when temperatures rose well over 100 degrees.
Hewlett said that when temperatures in the Persian Gulf exceeded 110 degrees, the heat index on the flight deck topped off at more than 150 degrees.
“It was absolutely brutal,” Hewlett said. “The kids ... that were working this flight deck were soaked head to toe, morning, noon and night.”
The 29-year-old Roosevelt, named for the 26th president, was part of a three-way swap of carrier home ports. The USS George Washington, formerly based in Japan, was sent to Virginia to have its nuclear power plant refueled. The USS Ronald Reagan, based in San Diego for 11 years, replaced the George Washington in Japan.
About two-thirds of the 3,300 or so Roosevelt sailors will fly on from San Diego to Virginia, where they will take over the George Washington.
Most of the Reagan's crew sailed the George Washington around the tip of South America and up to the East Coast of the U.S. They'll fly back to San Diego and become the Roosevelt's crew.
Around one-third of each vessel's sailors, mainly command staff and nuclear power experts, stayed with their ships.
The complicated process is estimated to be saving the Navy $41 million in personnel transfer costs.