The United States Navy on Friday said it will not reinstate Capt. Brett E. Crozier as commanding officer of USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.
“Following the release of a report into the events surrounding an outbreak of COVID-19 on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Navy Capt. Brett E. Crozier, the ship's former commander, will not be reinstated,” Navy Adm. Michael M. Gilday, chief of naval operations told reporters Friday.
Crozier was relieved on April 2, after a scathing letter addressed to those higher up in his chain of command, warning of potential COVID-19 risk posed to crew aboard the ship, was leaked to the media. In the letter, the captain wrote that the warship faces a situation worse than the Diamond Princess cruise ship (that was prevented from docking in Japan due to COVID-19 cases onboard) as most of the crew members are required to remain in close quarters on the carrier to maintain its combat readiness.
The letter went on to say that only a small number of infected sailors have been off-loaded and most of the crew members remain aboard the ship; which has limitations of space, making following US Navy’s quarantine guidelines impossible, according to the contents of the letter published in the San Francisco Chronicle in April.
Crozier had asked for more quarantine rooms on land in Guam, where the carrier stays, for his entire crew as soon as possible. He also said the Theodore Roosevelt is facing a much worse situation than the Diamond Princess cruise ship, even under best-case results, given the current environment.
In response to Crozier's letter, US acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly had told CNN that crew members were needed to stay on the carrier because it has armaments and aircraft on it.
After conducting an initial investigation, Gilday recommended that Crozier be reinstated. "The much broader, deeper investigation that we conducted in the weeks following that had a much deeper scope. It is my belief that both Navy Rear Admiral Stuart Baker and Captain Crozier fell well short of what we expect of those in command. Had I known then what I know today, I would have not made that recommendation to reinstate Captain Crozier. Moreover, if Captain Crozier were still in command today, I would be relieving him."
Crozier will not be reassigned as the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, nor will he be eligible for future command opportunities. Instead, he will be reassigned to other work.
"As Captain Crozier stated in his email, he should have been more decisive when the ship pulled into Guam," Gilday said. "He also said that he was ultimately responsible for his ship and his crew. And I agree. In the end, the email and the letters sent by Captain Crozier were unnecessary. Actions were already underway to acquire [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]-compliant off-base hotel rooms for the crew before he sent that email."
Gilday said it's rare for ship commanders to directly communicate as high up in their chain of command as Crozier did.
"If they do, they must ensure that all of the means of communication within the chain of command have been thoroughly exhausted and that they have a full understanding of all the facts, and that they include all members of their chain of command in that communication," he said.
At the time the letter was sent, Gilday said, the Navy already had made arrangements for off-ship lodging for Roosevelt sailors.