US Navy won’t reinstate former USS Theodore Roosevelt CO Crozier

Harry Lye 22 June 2020 (Last Updated June 22nd, 2020 13:48)

The US Navy has declined to reinstate ousted Captain Brett Crozier as Commanding Officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt following an investigation into the handling of an outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus onboard. The outbreak led to Crozier’s firing and the resignation of former Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly.

US Navy won’t reinstate former USS Theodore Roosevelt CO Crozier
Capt. Brett Crozier addresses the crew for the first time as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a change of command ceremony on the ship’s flight deck in 2019. Image: US Navy.

Following an investigation, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday said that Crozier would be re-assigned to another ship and would not return to command the Carrier at any point now or in future. Gilday had previously said he believed that Crozier should be reinstated.

In a press conference, Gilday said: “I will not re-assign Captain Brett Crozier as the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, nor will he be eligible for future command. Captain Crozier will be re-assigned.

“While I previously believed that Captain Crozier should be re-instated following his relief in April, after conducting an initial investigation, the much broader, deeper investigation that we conducted in the weeks following, that had a much deeper scope, it is my belief that both Admiral Baker and Captain Crozier fell well short of what we expect of those in command.”

Crozier was fired by Modly after a letter he sent to the chain of command, calling for his ship to evacuated was leaked to the press. In the leaked letter, seen by Naval Technology, Crozier said: “There are political challenges associated with securing individualised lodging for our crew. This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do.

“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 assets – our sailors.”

After the letter leaked, and Crozier’s firing, former Acting Navy Secretary Modly himself came under fire for comments made to the ship’s crew where he said Crozier was either “too naïve or too stupid” to command the aircraft carrier. Modly resigned shortly after the comments were made public.

The investigation, ordered by the new Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J Braithwaite, found that Crozier and strike group commander Rear Admiral Stuart Baker had not done enough to contain the spread of the virus on board.

Gilday said: “In reviewing both Admiral Baker and Captain Crozier’s actions, they did not do enough soon enough to fulfil their primary obligation, and they did not effectively carry out our guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. They were slow egressing sailors off the ship and they failed to move sailors to available safer environments quickly.

“Additionally, Captain Crozier exercised questionable judgment when he released sailors from quarantine on the ship, which put his crew at higher risk and may have increased the spread of the virus aboard the Theodore Roosevelt.”

Gilday added that Crozier and Baker had failed to ‘tackle the problem head-on and to take charge’ when obstacles arose and said ‘in a number of instances, they placed crew comfort in front of crew safety.’

The source of how the virus made it onboard the USS Roosevelt in the first place is still unknown.

Directly addressing the USS Roosevelt’s company Gilday said: “To the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, you are underway today in the Philippine Sea executing the mission to which you were assigned. And we support you. While you rightly supported Captain Crozier as your commanding officer, it is because of what he didn’t do that I have chosen not to re-instate him as your CO.”

One sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Chief Charles Robert Thacker, died as a result of contracting the virus. Braithwaite said: “Our entire Navy mourns with her and her family and with Chief Thacker’s shipmates.”

His sentiment was echoed by Gilday who added: “And to the secretary’s point, I also offer my deepest sympathies to Chief Thacker’s family, friends and shipmates. We mourn his loss and stand alongside you as you continue to grieve.”