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Navy leaders say carrier commander won’t be punished for COVID letter

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  • The commanding officer of an aircraft carrier who penned a leaked letter to his leaders had followed military procedures and is not expected to be punished, according to senior Navy officials.
  • Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to Navy leaders on Sunday urging for an “immediate and decisive action” as the crew dealt with a novel coronavirus outbreak.
  • Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said that if Crozier had leaked the letter, it would “violate the principles of good order and disciple,” but added “I don’t know that.”
  • “The fact that he wrote the letter to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any kind of retaliation,” Modly said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The commanding officer of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier who penned a letter to his leaders had followed military procedures and is not expected to face retaliation, according to senior Navy officials.

Capt. Brett Crozier, the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and its roughly 4,800 service members, issued a letter to Navy leaders on Sunday urging for an “immediate and decisive action” as the crew dealt with a novel coronavirus outbreak. Information on the four-page letter and its contents were obtained by The San Francisco Chronicle.

According to The Chronicle’s report, Crozier urged that he needed a “political solution” to the number of positive cases, which one senior officer aboard the ship said was numbering around 150 to 200 sailors.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier reportedly wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”

Navy Secretary Thomas Modly and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Wednesday that their staff were in “constant communication” with Crozier and other commanders.

“I think there were some timing issues related to when that letter was sent, when that letter finally made its way out to the media,” Modly said at the Pentagon. “But we’ve been reacting, obviously, because we want them to tell us what their issues are so we can react to them.”

Modly said that if Crozier had leaked the letter, it would “violate the principles of good order and disciple,” but added “I don’t know that.”

“The fact that he wrote the letter to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any time of retaliation,” Modly said.

Brett Crozier

Capt. Brett Crozier.

US Navy


Modly stressed that he made it clear prior to the letter’s publication that if Crozier “felt that he was not getting the proper response from his chain of command, that he had a direct line into my office.”

“He submitted this letter through his chain of command,” Modly said. “How it got out out into the media, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone will ever know. We certainly would prefer that it wouldn’t.”

“We really want people to tell us if they see problems, they should not be inhibited from telling us, from being transparent about the issues that they see,” Modly added. “But they need to do it through their chains of command. And if they’re not getting the proper responses from their chains of command, then they need to maybe go outside of it.”

Adm. Mike Gilday noted that plans to address the outbreak on the ship were “already in motion” before the letter was sent, and that he did not fault Crozier, who had an “extraordinary responsibility of command,” for writing to Navy officials.

Asked what may have prompted the captain to write the letter if the Navy was already addressing his concerns, Gilday said there may have been “potentially a breakdown” in communication at some point.

“If he has a difference of approach and he thinks he has a better way to do it, and if he doesn’t feel that we’re acting at the speed of urgency, then absolutely we need to know about that, and we need to adjust,” Gilday said.

Crozier is a native of Santa Rosa, California, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1992.

Following the publication of Crozier’s letter, sailors were rotated off the ship in Guam. Roughly 2,700 of them are expected to be taken off in the coming days, with many being isolated to nearby hotels.

“The letter worked,” a sailor aboard the ship told The Chronicle.

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