Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship’s flight deck, November 14, 2019.
US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Nicholas Huynh
The US Navy has decided not to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy announced Friday.
Crozier was fired after a letter he wrote sounding the alarm about the severity of a coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship leaked to the press.
The decision not to reinstate Crozier follows a thorough command investigation and is a reversal of an earlier recommendation.
The chief of naval operations said at the Pentagon Friday that it was not because of the leaked letter that Crozier is not being reinstated. It is, he explained, because of command perforamce and a failure to act that is documented in a investigation.
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The US Navy will not reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt who was relieved of his command after raising the alarm about the severity of the coronavirus outbreak on the ship.
Not only will Crozier not be reinstated, but he will also not be eligible for command in the future, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Friday.
In addition, the promotion of Rear Adm. Stu Baker, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 9, is being put on hold.
The decision to uphold Crozier’s firing, which follows a deep command investigation, is a reversal of an earlier recommendation by Navy leaders to reinstate the captain.
“Had I known then what I know today, I would not have made that recommendation to reinstate Capt. Crozier. Moreover, if Capt. Crozier were still command today, I would be relieving him,” Gilday said Friday, adding that the captain “fell well short of what we expect of those in command.”
The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), front, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59), center, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) transit in formation.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony J. Rivera
The Navy first revealed that there was an outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt on March 24.
The number of sailors who tested positive quickly multiplied, from just three to a few dozen in a matter of days. The carrier was forced into port in Guam, where it was sidelined by the coronavirus for almost two months.
On March 30, just a few days after the ship arrived in Guam, Crozier sent an email with a four-page letter warning that the situation aboard the carrier was worsening. He urged the Navy to quickly evacuate the crew. “Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote in the letter, which was leaked to The San Francisco Chronicle and published in full on March 31.
On April 2, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved Crozier of his command.
Modly did not directly accuse Crozier of leaking his shocking letter. Instead, he said that Crozier allowed it to be distributed outside the chain of command, making it susceptible to a leak. He said the captain “demonstrated extremely poor judgment in the middle of a crisis.”
The acting secretary later revealed to The Washington Post that he moved swiftly to fire Crozier — even as other military leaders recommended first conducting an investigation — because he thought President Donald Trump might intervene if he did not act fast enough.
A preliminary investigation launched after Crozier was fired was later followed by a deeper probe, which led leaders to focus on other failings on Crozier’s part beyond the email. Navy leaders said Crozier “did not do enough soon enough,” faulting him for problems aboard the Theodore Roosevelt.
Gilday said Friday that the decision not to reinstate Crozier was not tied to the email or the leak, but was instead tied to command performance, specifically inaction in a time of crisis. “It is because of what he didn’t do that I have chosen not to reinstate him,” Gilday said.
“Crozier did a bunch of things right. I think he could have done better,” the admiral said.
The day after Modly announced Crozier had been fired, a number of videos of the captain leaving the ship surfaced online, showing his crew cheering and chanting his name. On April 6, Modly flew out to Guam and spoke to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. In a tough address, he sharply criticized Crozier and expressed frustration with the crew’s admiration for him.
After transcripts and audio recordings of the speech leaked to the press, Modly issued a statement saying he stood by every word. Later that day, he issued a follow-up statement apologizing to the Navy, Crozier, and the carrier crew. Modly resigned on April 7, submitting his resignation to the secretary of defense.
The Navy battled the coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship for months and was forced to evacuate the majority of the crew as around 1,200 sailors fell ill. A number of sailors were hospitalized as a result, and one sailor died. The USS Theodore Roosevelt finally returned to sea toward the end of May.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper concurred with the Navy’s findings, the Pentagon said Friday afternoon.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that “Secretary Esper believes the investigation to have been thorough and fair and supports the Navy’s decisions based on their findings. We are proud of the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and am glad that they are back at sea in the western Pacific projecting American power.”
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