Crozier Has COVID-19
As of April 6, 61 percent of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt crew have been tested for COVID-19, with 173 positive cases so far - including the now sacked Commanding Officer, Captain Brett E. Crozier.
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved Crozier of his command, citing a written appeal for assistance with an outbreak of COVID-19 on board. The move came shortly after 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. Crozier expressed concern that it would not be possible to contain the disease in the cramped environment of a modern warship.
According to Modly, the letter was sent via unsecured email to multiple recipients, and it was subsequently leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. Modly accused 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.
In a speech to the crew of the aircraft carrier on Monday, Modly said the San Francisco Chronicle had published “sensitive” information about a warship. He criticized Crozier saying: “If he didn't think, it was my opinion, that if he didn't think that that information was going to get out into the public in this information age that we live in then he was a), too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did it on purpose, and that's a serious violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
The speech is available on SoundCloud here. After the comment about Crozier being “stupid,” someone in the audience is clearly heard yelling out: “What the f***.”
Afterwards, a sailor on board the ship, wishing to remain anonymous, told Reuters that Modly’s speech angered the crew. “Nobody likes what he had to say.” Crozier had received an emotional farewell from his crew when he left the vessel last week. He was hailed as a hero who worked to defend his crew at the expense of his career.
CNN reports that Modly did not want to wait for an investigation into the matter to be completed before relieving Crozier of his command, but that Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday opposed the quick action. Defense Secretary Mark Esper deferred the decision to Modly, who overruled Gilday.
Several politicians have voiced their disapproval for Modly's speech, and Members of Congress Ted Lieu and Ruben Gallego have called for Modly be sacked, saying he is “no longer fit to lead the best Navy in the world.”
As of April 6, 1,999 Sailors have now been moved ashore from the aircraft carrier. As testing continues, the ship will keep enough Sailors on board to sustain essential services and sanitize the ship in port at Guam. So far, there have been no hospitalizations.