In major reversal, Navy opts to uphold firing of aircraft carrier captain who warned about coronavirus outbreak

He had warned of the spread of the coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship but flaunted it.

In major reversal, Navy opts to uphold firing of aircraft carrier captain who warned about coronavirus outbreak
Twitter/photos/Reuters

In a significant reversal, the U.S. Navy has concluded to fire the captain of the U.S.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. He had warned of the spread of the coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship but flaunted it. The new decision comes after the conclusions of a preliminary investigation proposed his restoration, the service’s two senior officials announced Friday.

The findings of the latest Navy investigation faulted Capt. Brett Crozier for several mishaps. Including not complying with proper procedures to avoid a pandemic spread on the ship, such as social distancing, and being too slow to evacuate sailors from the ship when they arrived in port in Guam, they said.

“I would not reassign Captain Brett Crozier as Commander of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, nor will he be available for the potential command. They will reassign Capt. Crozier,” said Adm. Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, to journalists at the Pentagon conference, which occurred merely after confirmation of the announcement. 

“While I previously believed in the reinstatement of Captain Crozier, after his relief in April, after conducting an initial investigation. The much broader, deeper investigation that we performed in the weeks after; had a much broader scope,” he replied—speaking along with Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite.

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Both Gilday and Braithwaite argued that the Navy failed to evaluate the matter throughout its initial review correctly. 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper was updated on the report on Friday. He “believes that the inquiry was comprehensive and fair; embraced Navy decisions based on their findings,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman in a release.

What the investigation found

Rep. Mac Thornberry, an upper Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, replied in a statement that, in the end, Navy officials were correct to perform a broader inquiry into the issue. 

“The Navy was right to undertake a comprehensive investigation into the spread of COVID-19 to U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt and the measures taken by Navy leaders to keep Sailors safe. It is evident that lessons need to be learned, and adjustments need to be made,” he wrote.

“Since this issue first occurred, I refused to speak on Captain Crozier ‘s status. Also, I do not think it is acceptable for Members of Congress, who are not within the chain of command, to speak about specific personnel acts. Quite often, that is unfair to the particular service members concerned and their leadership. I prefer to maintain this opinion,” the Texas Republican said. 

Further Navy investigation

Further inquiry found that Crozier and Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, the Strike Group commander, “did not do anything, early enough to perform their primary role … and they did not adequately carry out our instructions for virus spread,” according to Gilday.

“Both Admiral Baker and Captain Crozier fell well short of what we demanded from those in charge. If I had learned then what I do now, I would not have decided to reinstate Captain Crozier. However, if Captain Crozier were still in command now, I would have replaced him,” he added. 

Although Crozier was relieved of the ship’s command, he is assumed to still be in the Navy. 

Baker would now be held responsible for bad decision – making and his promotion will be suspended, the Navy said in a release.

“They were slow, hurling sailors off the ship, and they were unable to move sailors to the available safe environments quickly,” Gilday said. “When challenges arose, both failed to address the problem head-on and to take control of it. And in a lot of incidents, they placed the comfort of the crew in front of the safety of the crew.” 

“Additionally, Captain Crozier ‘s judgment was disputable when he discharged sailors from quarantine on the ship, which placed his crew at higher risk, and may have doubled the spread of the virus onboard Theodore Roosevelt,” he added.

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