Captain Brett Crozier was worried about sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which had been battling the coronavirus, so he sent an email explaining the complexity and the urgency of the dire situation he faced.
“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,” it read, three US defense officials confirmed to CNN.
As of Friday, 137 sailors aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for COVID-19, representing more than 10 percent of all coronavirus cases in the entire military, CNN reports. On Thursday evening, Crozier was relieved of his duty and walked out to some hundreds of sailors chanting his name.
The Navy announced Crozier’s removal, claiming that the captain showed “poor judgment.”
“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,” acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announced on Thursday, CNN reports.
The Navy claims that they didn’t believe that Crozier leaked the memo to the media, or at least that wasn’t why he was being fired; they were more annoyed that he sent the email to too many people.
“I have no information nor am I trying to suggest that he leaked the information. It was published in the San Francisco Chronicle. It all came as a big surprise to all of us that it was in the paper, and that’s the first time I had seen it,” he added.
“He sent it out pretty broadly, and in sending it out broadly he did not take care to ensure that it couldn’t be leaked, and that’s part of his responsibility, in my opinion,” Modly said, CNN reports.
“I have received absolutely no pressure. I have had no communication with the White House about this,” he added. “I did, when I was arriving closer to this determination yesterday, I called Secretary [of Defense Mark] Esper and told him that this was the direction I was heading and he told me he would support my decision whatever that might be.”
It’s not like Crozier was dealing with his own pandemic aboard the Roosevelt. CNN notes that top Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee considered the decision to remove Crozier “a destabilizing move” at a critical time.
“While Captain Crozier clearly went outside the chain of command, his dismissal at this critical moment—as the sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt are confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic—is a destabilizing move that will likely put our service members at greater risk and jeopardize our fleet’s readiness,” they said.
“The COVID pandemic presents a set of new challenges and there is much we still do not know. Captain Crozier was justifiably concerned about the health and safety of his crew, but he did not handle the immense pressure appropriately. However, relieving him of his command is an overreaction,” the lawmakers added.
The Hill notes that the ship is currently docked in Guam and some 5,000 crew members are still being tested for the virus. There will also be an investigation by the Navy into Crozier’s actions, which, for some reason, aren’t being deemed heroic.
All orders point to social distancing, which literally couldn’t happen on the Roosevelt, and the captain was trying to save lives; but yes, let’s make this about an email that went too far up the food chain for
Trump’s comfort the Navy’s comfort.