"We have a job to do": USS Roosevelt's new commanding officer discusses the future of his ship and crew

USS Roosevelt commander on the fight against COVID-19
USS Roosevelt commander on the fight against ... 01:49

U.S. Navy officials say Captain Brett Crozier, the former commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, has recovered from coronavirus and is on his way back to the U.S. Crozier was fired after sounding the alarm about an outbreak onboard the aircraft carrier.

Captain Carlos Sardiello, the Roosevelt's new commanding officer, spoke exclusively with CBS News on Monday. Crozier left the Roosevelt last month, and by the last public count, more than 1,100 members of the crew had tested positive.

"What was the mood of the crew?" CBS News asked.

"So, the mood of the crew was a challenging situation," Sardiello said.

Sardiello took over after Crozier was relieved of command. It's a job Sardiello knows well. He was the previous commanding officer and had only been gone for six months.

"When you addressed the crew what did you tell them?" CBS News asked.

"We have a job to do," Sardiello explained. "It's like no job we have ever faced, but we're U.S. sailors. You know me. I know you. I had your back before. I'm going to have your back now."

Sardiello said he won't wait for all the crew to clear quarantine before he heads back to sea.

"We've taken 45 days from that business, and it's a dangerous business, so we have a lot of training to complete," he said. 

After being screened and re-screened, more than half the crew is now back aboard. And the ship, all 1,086 feet of it, has been deep cleaned. But Sardiello is taking no chances.

"You have to go through two different checks plus being COVID tested twice," he explained. "And we sideline sailors for the slightest thing. Sniffles"

The Roosevelt lost one sailor to coronavirus, and now the rest of the crew has to bring the ship back to life.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.