The U.S. Navy relieved the commander of the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) who wrote a letter about the COVID-19 outbreak which was subsequently leaked to press.
The dismissal of Captain Brett Crozier was announced by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly on April 2. According to the Acting Navy Secretary, Captain Crozier is relieved not because he wrote the letter and sent it up through the chain of command but because it was shared with at least 20 people before it was leaked in the media.
The secretary did not accuse Crozier of leaking the letter himself but said that the people Crozier shared the letter with included people ‘outside the chain of command’.
Modly also accused Crozier of undermining the effectiveness of one of America’s most important strategic assets in the Pacific. “It raised concerns about the operational security and operational capability of that ship that could have emboldened our adversaries to seek advantage and it undermined the chain of command”, Modly said.
The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has released a statement on the dismissal calling it a “destabilizing move”.
“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”,sai the statement jointly issued by HASC leadership – including Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Subcommittee Chairs Joe Courtney (D-CT), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA).
San Fransisco Chronicle was first to report on the four-page letter by Capt. Brett Crozier in which he requested the Navy officials for resources to allow isolation of his entire crew and avoid possible deaths in a situation he described as quickly deteriorating.
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote in the letter to senior military officials, obtained exclusively by The Chronicle. “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.”
According to the latest reports, at least 100 of the ~5,000-strong crew is reportedly contracted with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
None of the infected sailors has reportedly shown serious symptoms, but the number of positive cases has jumped exponentially since the Navy reported infections in three crew members on March 24. This was the first time COVID-19 infections had been detected on a U.S. Navy ship at sea.
The carrier is currently docked in Guam following the COVID-19 outbreak. The carrier was underway in the Pacific Ocean but was ordered to pull into Guam and remain pierside.
It was announced earlier that the Navy has started evacuating the crew off the vessel. A downsized crew will remain on board the vessel to maintain critical capabilities and to secure its safety of the sophisticated weapons and the nuclear power plant on the carrier.
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is America’s fourth Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (CSG) was forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations “in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”.