A mass of sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear aircraft carrier experiencing a covid-19 outbreak, cheered recently dismissed commanding officer Captain Brett Crozier as he disembarked the ship on Thursday night. Crozier’s offense: copying too many people on an SOS email.
In the message, which was published by the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week (to the Navy’s ire), Crozier appealed to Navy officials to shift their “inappropriate focus on testing” to getting the majority of the ship’s 4,865 sailors safely offboard as the virus spread. The delay, he wrote, could essentially amount to a death sentence for those in his care. “We are not at war,” Crozier wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
Sailors still aboard the virus-infected ship lauded Crozier’s leadership on Thursday evening, chanting, “Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!” as he departed.
The ship is currently docked in a port in Guam.
At a Pentagon press briefing on Thursday, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, who relieved Crozier of his duties, confirmed that 114 crew members had tested positive for the virus and that he expected the number to rise to “maybe in the hundreds.”
Modly charged Crozier with allowing “emotion” to sully his judgment and with breaking the chain of command by neglecting to alert his immediate superior, instead sending a “blast-out email to everyone he knows.”
“It was copied to 20 or 30 other people,” Modly told reporters. “That’s just not acceptable. He did not take care and what that did is it created a little bit of a panic on the ship. And at the same time, the families here in the United States were panicked about the reality.” He said that Defense Secretary Mark Esper supported his decision. Crozier will remain in the Navy and maintain his rank.
The public, Modly said, needs the Navy to project a “strong and confident” stance. Citizens can decide for themselves whether Crozier displayed strength and confidence; the letter is formatted as an itemized list of violations of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing recommendations, followed by a logical argument for adhering to those guidelines in order to prevent the deaths of the Navy’s own service members.
“The current plan in execution,” he wrote—referring to moving small numbers of sailors off the ship and minimal social distancing in close quarters—“will not achieve virus eradication on any timeline.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, over 1,000 sailors have been moved off the ship as of Friday morning. Those who have tested positive have been isolated on a naval base.
Read Crozier’s letter here: