Politics

Navy will not reinstate aircraft carrier captain who sounded alarm on coronavirus

Key Points
  • The U.S. Navy announced Friday that it will not reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier, who sounded the alarm about a growing coronavirus outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier, a reversal from a previous recommendation.
  • In April, the Navy's top officer recommended that Crozier be reinstated to his command on the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he was relieved following a messy string of events that also resulted in the resignation of then-acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. 
  • "Had I known then what I know today, I would not have made that recommendation," Chief of Naval Operations Mike Gilday said Friday at the Pentagon.
Captain Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship's flight deck in the eastern Pacific Ocean December 19, 2019.
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Huynh | US Navy

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy announced Friday that the service will not reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier, who sounded the alarm about a growing coronavirus outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier, a reversal from a previous recommendation.

In April, the Navy's top officer recommended that Crozier be reinstated to his command on the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he was relieved following a messy string of events that also resulted in the resignation of then-acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. 

"Had I known then what I know today, I would not have made that recommendation," Chief of Naval Operations Mike Gilday said Friday at the Pentagon.

Gilday determined that Crozier should not be recommended for further command

"It is clear to me following this investigation, Capt. Crozier did not act according to the standards I expect of our commanding officers — to adapt in the face of adversity, exercise ingenuity and creativity in crisis, demonstrate resilience, communicate effectively up the chain of command, and to take bold and appropriate action early and often," Gilday wrote

Gilday also said Friday that the Navy would delay the promotion of Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, who is responsible for the strike group that included the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.

'Sailors do not need to die'

In a four-page letter, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Crozier described a worsening coronavirus outbreak aboard the warship, a temporary home to more than 4,000 crew members. At the time, more than 100 people on the ship were infected.

"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," Crozier wrote. "The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating."

VIDEO1:1701:17
Acting Navy Sec. Modly resigns after remarks about captain who raised COVID-19 alarm

The Roosevelt was forced to dock in Guam. During the nearly two months that the Roosevelt was moored, the U.S. Navy tested every crew member, provided treatment to those infected and cleaned the vessel from bow to stern.

Crozier was relieved by Modly after the captain's letter pleading for help to mitigate the spread of the virus aboard the aircraft carrier was leaked to the media. Modly then took a 35-hour trip, which cost taxpayers $243,000, to address the crew of the Roosevelt. 

In the address, delivered via the ship's loudspeaker, Modly doubled down on his decision to relieve Crozier and called the vessel's former captain "naive" and "stupid." Hours later Modly issued an apology to the Navy.

"I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused," he said in a statement April 6. 

A day later, Modly handed in his resignation to Esper.

Last month, the Roosevelt returned to sea.

The latest revelation comes as the Pentagon's inspector general conducts an investigation that will evaluate the U.S. Navy's response to coronavirus outbreaks on vessels.

In a memo to the Department of the Navy, dated May 11, the Pentagon's inspector general's office wrote that it will "determine whether the Navy has implemented policies and procedures to prevent and mitigate the spread of infectious diseases, such as coronavirus-disease-2019 (COVID-19), on ships and submarines."

"In addition, we will determine whether mitigation measures that are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 were implemented across the fleet."

Read more: Pentagon's inspector general will evaluate US Navy's response to coronavirus outbreaks on vessels