The Navy captain who was fired Thursday after he begged officials to let his ship port in Guam following a coronavirus outbreak on board was greeted with cheers and claps as he disembarked his ship for the last time.
Capt. Brett Crozier left the USS Theodore Roosevelt to a large crowd of sailors and chants of “Captain Crozier” late Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“And that’s how you send out one of the greatest captains you ever had,” said a Facebook user who took part in the celebration and shared video of it.
Crozier’s dismissal was announced in a press release Thursday by Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who said he’d “lost confidence” in Crozier’s leadership capabilities following his response to a coronavirus outbreak that Navy officials reportedly said sickened at least 132 sailors.
Crozier wrote a memorandum on March 30 asking Navy officials to let him isolate his crew to help prevent the coronavirus from spreading to more of the Roosevelt’s 4,000+ crew members, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, where the memorandum was leaked and published.
DVIDS HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Brett Crozier
Though the Roosevelt has been docked in Guam since the outbreak, Crozier wrote that only some of the infected sailors had been off-boarded, and that maintaining social distance and following isolation guidelines on the ship was near impossible due to the cramped nature of the space.
He added that the spread of the virus was “ongoing and accelerating.”
“Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk,” Crozier wrote. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”
Three days later, Modly announced Crozier had been “relieved of command.”
In the press release, Modly addressed Crozier’s letter, and said that at the time it was written, the Navy had already “mobilized significant resources” in response to his previous requests.
He also said that Crozier’s letter was outside the chain of command and raised “unnecessary” alarm.
“I could reach no other conclusion than that Captain Crozier had allowed the complexity of his challenge with COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally, when acting professionally was what was needed most,” he wrote. “For these reasons, I lost confidence in his ability to lead that warship as it continues to fight thorough this virus, get the crew healthy, so that it can continue to meet its national security requirements.”
He later said on The Hugh Hewitt Show that the decision was “very, very difficult” considering Crozier’s crew “loves and respects him,” the Journal reported.
His dismissal was criticized by Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as by former naval officials, one of whom told the Journal it came across as “not well thought out and done in a particularly perilous time for that ship and her crew.”