EVERETT — Hundreds of sailors returned home this week after a challenging deployment where COVID-19 spread through the crew of Naval Station Everett ship, the USS Kidd.
The ship left in January and returned Monday morning. During deployment, the crew traveled to the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea to fight drug trafficking.
The homecoming was not a typical celebration. Families did not meet on the usual pier at Naval Station Everett and no reporters were invited, to limit the number of people in one place.
“Whenever a crew returns home from deployment, it’s always exciting,” commanding officer Cmdr. Nathan Wemett said in an email. “Despite the challenges of COVID, our crew members were excited to see their families again.”
In April, the Kidd became the second Naval ship to experience a coronavirus outbreak while deployed, following the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier with a crew of almost 5,000 based in San Diego.
“We experienced a lot of challenges in dealing with COVID early on but we applied the lessons learned on how to deal with an outbreak aboard ship from USS Theodore Roosevelt,” Wemett said. “Our main priority was crew health and safety. Despite having very little time, our planning and hard work right from the beginning allowed us to get through the COVID outbreak.”
At one point, the Kidd reported nearly 80 crew members had tested positive for COVID-19, of roughly 300 on board. Around that time the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer made its way to dock at Naval Base San Diego. Sailors were placed in quarantine and all were tested multiple times, according to news reports from that time.
Naval destroyers have fairly tight quarters with narrow hallways, low ceilings and steep stairs to climb throughout the ship. Sailors share rooms and eat in the same cafeteria.
While at sea sailors wore face masks to stop the spread of the virus and tried to stay six feet away from one another when possible, Wemett said.
During deployment, the Kidd helped recover 805 kilograms of suspected cocaine with a wholesale value of about $30 million.
The crew also came across a fishing vessel in distress “somewhere in the Eastern Pacific Ocean,” Wemett said, and helped tow the boat more than 200 nautical miles to safety.
As the Kidd pulled into Port Gardner on Monday, it sported an American flag on one side and a Jolly Roger flag on the other, where a white skull and crossbones stands out against the black background.
Flying this flag at the end of deployment, “usually reflects some kind of notable achievement,” The War Zone reported.
According to a newsletter published by the Navy in 2013, the Kidd is the only ship in the Navy with permission to fly the pirate flag.
“While Kidd sailors are no terrors of the high seas, there is pride in having the ability to fly the Jolly Roger as a reminder of their namesake’s history and sacrifice,” it reads.
The ship’s history with the flag goes back to its very first voyage in the 1940s. Other ships have been built since then and also named Kidd, after Rear Adm. Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., who died aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.
The current Kidd, known as DDG 100, was commissioned in 2007.
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stephrdavey.