A New York Times report explained that the letter that Captain Brett Crozier sent to military officials not only revealed severe problems with Navy members not being cared for in the era of the coronavirus, but it also revealed a rift.
Crozier was leading the aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Rosevelt, which had docked in Guam as members of the crew began coming down with the virus. When the virus began to spread even further, he recognized the need for answers as soon as possible for failures sitting in a small enclosed space together.
“Captain Crozier was haunted by the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship of 2,600 passengers in individual cabins where the virus had killed eight people and infected more than 700,” wrote the Times. “The situation on his [carrier] had the potential to be far worse: nearly 5,000 sailors crammed in shared berths, sometimes stacked three high. Eight of his sailors with severe Covid-19 symptoms had already been evacuated to the Navy’s hospital in Guam.”
He had reached out to superiors for help but was “rebuffed,” the Times described. That’s when he drafted the email telling those above him that “sailors don’t need to die.” It has been less than a month since that email made its way to the public, the captain has been removed from command, his crew got a dressing down by the Secretary of the Navy, and more than 580 of the carrier’s sailors on the USS Roosevelt have COVID-19. Captain Crozier was right, but that didn’t matter.
“Worried that Captain Crozier’s letter would anger Mr. Trump, Mr. [Thomas] Modly called colleagues asking for advice, officials said. Should he fire Captain Crozier? Most of them, including Adm. Michael M. Gilday, the chief of naval operations, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him he should order an investigation into the incident and wait and see the outcome.”
That’s not what he did, however. The acting secretary was trying to make his way to permanence at the DOD and was worried about what Trump would say. Former Secretary Richard Spencer was canned for standing up to Trump’s intervention with charged war criminal Edward Gallagher, who Trump pardoned.
“During a phone conversation with one adviser, Mr. Modly suddenly interrupted and said, according to a person familiar with the discussion, ‘Oh, breaking, the president wants him fired,'” the Times continued. “The person surmised that Mr. Modly had received a text message informing him of the president’s views.”
Modly called Admiral Baker, Capt. Crozier’s immediate superior on April 2 and Baker said that he didn’t know the captain was going to send the email. That’s when Modly decided to fire Crozier.
Modly was hit with substantial backlash as the public felt for the captain’s desperation at such a difficult time. Losing the PR war, Modly turned in his resignation last week, and it was accepted. More than 345,000 people have signed a petition demanding Crozier be reinstated. Admiral Gilday hasn’t ruled it out, the Times said.
“The story of the Theodore Roosevelt encapsulates, aboard a single aircraft carrier, Mr. Trump’s tumultuous three and a half years as commander in chief,” wrote the Times. “The episode shows how the military, the most structured and hierarchical part of the government, has tried to adjust to an erratic president, and how in a hollowed-out leadership, acting secretaries have replaced those confirmed by the Senate.”
The leadership isn’t merely hollowed-out; the heads of agencies and branches of service are hired and fired with the moody whim of paranoid leaders.
“Navy officials say the Roosevelt may be fully cleaned and ready to resume its operations in the Pacific this month,” the report said. “Amid the fallout from Captain Crozier’s letter, senior military officials say they are concerned about other warships and other missions.”
“From my perspective, I think it’s not a good idea to think that the Teddy Roosevelt is a one-of-a-kind issue,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten said. “To think that it will never happen again is not a good way to plan.”
“Three other carriers — the Ronald Reagan, the Carl Vinson and the Nimitz — have had sailors test positive, and the Navy is rushing to resolve their cases,” the report closed.