Captain’s fears were accurate
One day, after these difficult times have passed, the story of Capt. Brett Crozier’s removal from his aircraft carrier will be the subject of books and a movie. For now, it is an embarrassment to the U.S. Navy, which is the only federal agency to fire somebody for their handling of the problems caused by the coronavirus.
Crozier lost his command because he distributed a four-page memo, originally written to his Navy superiors, about the coronavirus that was spreading among the crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
His recommendation was to put 90 percent of the ship’s 4,800-member crew into a two-week individual quarantine while it was docked in Guam so that the ship could be disinfected.
The San Francisco Chronicle and other news organizations obtained the letter and released it to the public last week. A couple of days later, the Navy’s acting secretary removed the captain, saying his decision to send copies of his memo to a large number of people showed extremely poor judgment in the middle of a crisis.
There is truth in that. It’s beyond unusual for any captain’s memo about a problem on his ship to get leaked right away. It would be no surprise if the captain actually hoped that someone outside the Navy who got the letter realized it was worth publicizing.
Equally unusual, though, is for the man who removed the captain to board the ship and insult the former skipper to the crew that saluted him with loud cheers as he disembarked.
The acting Navy secretary, Thomas Modly, told the Roosevelt’s crew Sunday that Crozier was either “too naive or too stupid” to be in charge of an aircraft carrier. He also said that the sailors who cheered for Crozier as he left were overlooking their duty to defend the interests of the United States.
Modly said the ship’s mission is what matters most. He said Crozier lost sight of this when he intentionally released his memo, which made the Navy look weak.
Frankly, the Navy does not need the captain’s help to look weak. Crozier’s assessment of the risks aboard the ship are proving to be accurate. So far, at least 155 members of the ship’s crew have tested positive for the virus, including the captain himself. That’s a small percentage, but Crozier’s memo notes that sailors live, work and eat in close quarters. “Social distancing” is not possible to any serious degree, and that means any illness — especially one for which there is no cure — can spread rapidly.
The memo is not hostile. It says the ship’s quarantine strategies are not working, and that the “decisive action” of removing many more sailors from the ship needed to begin right away.
“If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors,” Crozier wrote.
Crozier may be getting trashed by a superior. But thank-you notes from the parents of sailors aboard the Roosevelt, who now know their kids had a captain who was watching out for his crew’s safety, easily will balance that out.
Jack Ryan, Enterprise-Journal