USS Theodore Roosevelt captain relieved of his command

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Captain Brett Crozier

USS Theodore Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier has been relieved of his command.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly made the announcement earlier today, Friday, during a briefing at the Pentagon saying:

“Today, at my direction, the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Brett Crozier, was relieved of command by Carrier Strike Group Commander Rear Admiral Stewart Baker. Executive Officer Captain Dan Keeler has assumed command temporarily.”

“I lost confidence in his ability to lead that warship as it continues to fight through this virus, get the crew healthy so that it can continue to meet its national security requirements.”

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Earlier this week, Capt. Crozier sent a pleading letter to Navy leaders that was leaked to the media. In his emotional letter, Crozier asked for drastic moves, to stop the spread of coronavirus on the ship.

Secretary Modly did not mince words at the live news conference, saying these events were a severe “lapse in judgment” by Crozier.

Modly said the Navy expects more from their COs than crumbling under pressure. He accused Crozier of sending his letter out of emotion and not truly appreciating the security risks at play.

“Captain Crozier had allowed the complexity of his challenge with COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally when acting professionally was what was needed most. We do, and we should expect more from the Commanding Officers of our aircraft carriers,” stated Modly.

The Acting Secretary said Crozier’s letter, which was first published in the San Francisco Chronicle (Crozier’s home town), alarmed sailors, their families and compromised national security and his chain of command. Modly said he does not believe Crozier was the one who leaked the letter.

However, “he [Crozier] sent it out pretty broadly. And in sending out broadly, he didn’t ensure that it couldn’t be leaked. And that’s part of his responsibility in my opinion.”

In that memo, Crozier asked that the US Navy remove all but 10 percent of the crew, currently docked at Apra Harbor, and to quarantine them on Guam.

Crozier wrote, “this will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. 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.”

In his news conference, Modly said, “when the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S Theodore Roosevelt…decided to write his letter of 30 March 2020 that outlined his concerns for his crew in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of the Navy had already mobilized significant resources for days in response to his previous requests. On the same date marked on his letter, my Chief of Staff had called the CO directly, at my request, to ensure he had all the resources necessary for the health and safety of his crew.”

“The CO told my Chief of Staff that he was receiving those resources and was fully aware of the Navy’s response, only asking that he wished the crew could be evacuated faster.”

Modly went on to firmly say, “my Chief of Staff ensured that the CO knew that he had an open line to me to use at any time. He even called the CO again a day later to follow up. At no time did the CO relay the various levels of alarm that I, along with the rest of the world, learned from his letter when it was published two days later.”

Since that letter was written, Guam has agreed to house sailors who test negative for coronavirus at various Tumon hotels on island.

When the Roosevelt pulled into Apra Harbor last Friday with 23 cases of COVID-19 sailors aboard, Navy officials had said no member of the crew would be allowed beyond the pier.

During a briefing from the Pentagon Thursday morning, however, Modly said nearly 1,000 sailors have now left the aircraft carrier, and in a few days that number would climb to 2,700.

Modly confirmed that around 1300 sailors have so far been swabbed and 93 sailors have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Wednesday this week, JRM Commander Rear Admiral John Menoni said all the positive cases would be isolated on Naval Base Guam, and only those sailors who test negative would head to hotel rooms.

However, not all the sailors will be leaving the USS Roosevelt. US Navy officials emphasized that there is a need to keep a certain number of sailors on the ship to keep it operational.

The Roosevelt is also undergoing a deep cleaning to get rid of the virus on board.

In his admonishment Friday morning, Modly said, among the various reasons he decided to dismiss Capt. Crozier: “the Captain’s actions made his Sailors, their families, and many in the public believe that his letter was the only reason help from our larger Navy family was forthcoming, which was hardly the case.”

The SecNav tried to reassure current Commanding Officers, saying, “this decision is not one of retribution. It is about confidence. It is not an indictment of character, but rather of judgment.”

“It was the way in which he did this, by not working through and with his Strike Group Commander to develop a strategy to resolve the problems he raised, by not sending the letter to and through his chain of command, by not protecting the sensitive nature of the information contained within the letter appropriately, and lastly by not reaching out to me directly to voice his concerns, after that avenue had been provided to him through my team, that was unacceptable.”

Click here to read the Navy Secretary’s full statement.

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