- Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt reportedly believed his dire letter warning of the coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship would not be allowed to be sent by his superiors.
- The acting Navy secretary, Thomas Modly, said that Crozier was “panicking” and was flabbergasted by him being “so out of character,” he said to the Washington Post.
- Modly claimed that he eventually fired Crozier because he “didn’t want to get into a decision where the president would feel that he had to intervene.”
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The US Navy commander of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier reportedly sent out a “signal flare” — a four-page emailed letter outlining the urgency of a coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship — to fellow naval aviators because he believed his immediate supervisor would not have allowed the letter to be sent.
Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt may have been worried that Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, his immediate boss and the commander of the carrier strike group, would not have allowed him to send the warning letter to Navy leaders, according to the top Navy official who fired him as told to a Washington Post columnist.
Baker reportedly confirmed to Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly that Crozier’s instincts were correct: “He was right. I wouldn’t.”
The account comes from Modly, who relieved Crozier from his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and its 4,800 crew members on Thursday. Modly reasoned that Crozier should not have sent the “blast out” email to 20 or 30 recipients and that there was a “proper way of handling” his concerns.
“The letter was sent over non-secure, unclassified email even though that ship possesses some of the most sophisticated communications and encryption equipment in the fleet,” Modly said Thursday.
“I have no doubt in my mind that Capt. Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest and well-being of his crew,” Modly added. “Unfortunately, it did the opposite.”
In the letter, Crozier urged for a “political solution” and an “immediate and decisive action” for the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. As of Sunday, over 150 service members tested positive. Crozier was also diagnosed with the coronavirus, the New York Times first reported.
The contents of the letter were eventually leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published its story on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how the letter was leaked and the Defense Department has launched an investigation.
Modly assessed that Crozier was “panicking” and was flabbergasted by the captain being “so out of character,” he said to The Post.
“Either you’re losing it, or you’re extremely naive, or you’re dishonorable,” Modly reportedly said, adding that “If he did this intentionally, he’s not honorable.”
Modly also claimed that he made the decision, which Defense Secretary Mark Esper supported, because he “didn’t want to get into a decision where the president would feel that he had to intervene because the Navy couldn’t be decisive,” according to The Post.
“If I were president, and I saw a commanding officer of a ship exercising such poor judgment, I would be asking why the leadership of the Navy wasn’t taking action itself,” Modly reportedly said.
The acting secretary specifically pointed out the case of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, in which President Donald Trump directly intervened to reverse the military’s decision to demote him and then blocked Navy SEAL leaders from initiating a review of whether he should remain a Navy SEAL.
Gallagher, an ardent supporter of Trump’s presidency, was previously found guilty of taking a picture with the corpse of an ISIS fighter. While Gallagher was found guilty of the one charge, he was acquitted of the several others, including murder.
Trump’s intervention prompted the resignation of Richard Spencer, Modly’s immediate predecessor. Following his resignation, Spencer described Trump’s actions as a mistake.
“What message does that send to the troops,” Spencer, who is a former Marine officer, previously said. “That you can get away with things. We have to have good order and discipline. It’s the backbone of what we do.”
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