The USS Roosevelt has dominated headlines lately after news broke that a few sailors had contracted COVID-19 while the carrier was at sea. First, the count of sick sailors was only two. Then, as this virus tends to go, the number grew exponentially. As of Wednesday, there were 93 crew members with the virus. Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier requested help and after he thought enough was not being done, he was suspected of leaking the letter to the press, as it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Capt. Crozier’s hometown paper.
In the four-page letter to senior military leadership, Crozier asked for additional support, stating that only a small number of those infected had disembarked from the deployed carrier, in port in Guam. A majority of the crew remained onboard, where, as anyone who has spent time on a ship knows, social distancing isn’t just difficult; it is impossible. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
Crozier asked that the majority of his crew be removed, asking for compliant quarantine rooms on Guam as soon as possible. “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. …This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” he continued in the letter. “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.”
While the letter ultimately had the outcome Capt. Crozier intended — many of the crew were quarantined on Guam, it came at a high cost: Capt. Crozier was relieved of command.
In a press conference Thursday evening, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier was removed because he didn’t follow chain of command protocol in how he handled the situation.
While Modly praised Capt. Crozier, he ultimately relieved him because the captain “allowed the complexity of the challenge of the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally.” You can read the full text of Modly’s statement, here.
“The responsibility for this decision rests with me,” Modly stated. “I expect no congratulations for it. Captain Crozier is an incredible man. … 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. Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns.”
The crew cheered the Captain off of the ship. We wish all of the sailors on the Roosevelt a speedy recovery.