RT/Moscow: The commander of USS Theodore Roosevelt hit by COVID-19 has been relieved of duty, with the military stating he was “overwhelmed” by the crisis, after writing a letter pleading for infected sailors to be evacuated.
The head officer aboard the carrier, Captain Brett Crozier, was removed from his post, the Navy said in a statement, taking him to task for “causing alarm” with a letter sent directly to senior officials as scores of sailors on the aircraft carrier contracted the lethal coronavirus, skipping several rungs on the chain of command.
The captain’s letter urgently requested the immediate evacuation of the ship to “prevent tragic outcomes,” striking a dire tone after more than 100 sailors became infected and the Roosevelt was forced to dock in Guam.
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.
Though Crozier’s request was ultimately granted earlier on Thursday, the military insists his sacking was in the “best interest of the Navy and nation.”
Thousands of the ship’s crew members have now been allowed to disembark to hotels on the island to avoid further illness, but the Navy questioned Crozier’s judgment, stating he was “absolutely correct” to raise concerns, but took issue with “the way in which he did it.”
“I have no doubt in my mind Captain Crozier did what he thought was best for the health and safety” of his crew, said acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, adding “unfortunately, it did the opposite,” potentially emboldening “adversaries” into taking advantage of Roosevelt’s vulnerable state.
Not long after the captain’s letter was sent, appearing prominently in a flurry of press reports, the Pentagon locked-down information regarding infected soldiers, refusing to share data beyond “aggregated numbers” as it could reveal weak points in US forces.
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the US military, forcing the Pentagon to recall 20,000 troops from NATO’s massive Defender Europe 2020 drill, set to be the alliance’s largest exercise in 25 years. Outbreaks have been reported on at least four Navy warships – including the Roosevelt – while airbases across the US have gone on high alert after airmen contracted the illness. In hopes of stemming the spread of the disease, the military has also halted all major troop movements worldwide, excluding only the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Sputnik/Moscow: The US Navy relieved the captain of the COVID-19-infected aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt of duty after he wrote a letter to US Navy leaders demanding support in quarantining the crew, US officials told Reuters on Thursday.
During a press conference Thursday, acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly explained that Crozier was not being relieved of duty for writing the letter but because he sent it outside the chain of command. Doing so, Modly noted, “raised alarm bells unnecessarily” that undermined the efforts by the Navy to contain the virus.
Modly also noted that Crozier “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” amid the outbreak and that sending the letter so broadly was “completely unnecessary to do.”
“It created the perception that the Navy is not on the job, the government is not on the job and it’s just not true,” Modly noted.
“I did not make this decision lightly. I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew,” Modly added.
Regarding the Monday letter from Crozier, Modly told reporters on Wednesday: “I don’t know who leaked the letter to the media. That would be something that would violate the principles of good order and discipline if he were responsible for that. But I don’t know that.”
“The fact that he wrote the letter up to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation,” Modly added.
In the letter that was published Tuesday by the San Francisco Chronicle, Crozier wrote, “Request all available resources to find NAVADMIN [Navy Personnel Command] and CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] compliant quarantine rooms for my entire crew as soon as possible.”
“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,” the statement continues.
The warship docked in Guam last week after several members of its crew tested positive for COVID-19. According to an anonymous source who spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle, there are now around 200 cases of the virus on the ship.
About two weeks earlier, which is the virus’s incubation period, the ship was docked at the Vietnamese port of Da Nang. The crew members were in contact with locals. The latest data by Worldometer shows that there are at least 227 cases of the coronavirus in Vietnam.