Carrier CO Relieved of Command After Appeal for COVID-19 Assistance
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly has removed the commanding officer of the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt from command, citing a written appeal for assistance with an outbreak of COVID-19 on board.
The move came shortly after USS Roosevelt CO Capt. Brett E. Crozier wrote and distributed a letter calling for 4,000 members of the carrier's crew to be disembarked in Guam, thereby reducing the potential that they might be exposed to the virus. About 100 cases have been confirmed on board, and Crozier expressed concern that it would not be possible to contain the disease in the cramped environment of a modern warship.
According to Acting Secretary Modly, the letter was sent via unsecured email to multiple recipients, and it was subsequently leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. Modly accused Capt. Crozier of bypassing the chain of command, failing to ensure that the communication remained secure and undermining operational security. In addition, Modly claimed that the Navy was already acting on the captain's requests prior to the memo.
"I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interests of the safety and well-being of his crew. Unfortunately, it did the opposite," said Modly in a statement. "It unnecessarily raised alarms with the families of our Sailors and Marines with no plan to address those concerns. It raised concerns about the operational capabilities and operational security of the ship that could have emboldened our adversaries to seek advantage, and it undermined the chain of command who had been moving and adjusting as rapidly as possible to get him the help he needed."
Capt. Crozier will be replaced by the USS Roosevelt's former commander, Rear Admiral Select Carlos Sardiello. In addition, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke will launch an investigation into whether there might be a "circumstances and climate" problem within Pacific Fleet as a whole. "We must ensure we can count on the right judgment, professionalism, composure, and leadership from our commanding officers everywhere on our Navy and Marine Corps team, but especially in the Western Pacific," said Modly.
Critics of Modly's decision noted that Captain Crozier was relieved within two days of sending a letter seeking support for his crew's wellbeing; by comparison, the COs of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain kept their commands for weeks after the two collisions that crippled their ships and killed multiple members of their crews.
“For the men and women on the Roosevelt and across the Navy, the message is this: If the commander is looking out for you and doesn’t go about it the right way he’s going to get punished. It’s dangerous, it’s going to impact morale and retention rates," said Marine Corps veteran Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), speaking to the New York Times.
Capt. Crozier's dismissal did not appear to reduce his popularity among the carrier's crew. Upon his departure, a crowd of USS Roosevelt sailors gave him a rousing cheer as he walked down the gangway, according to multiple video posts on private social media accounts.
Oh captain my captain #captaincrozierPosted by Abram Alvarado on Friday, April 3, 2020
So long to our hero Captain Crozier ??????Posted by Taliah Peterkin on Friday, April 3, 2020