US Navy will not reinstate former USS Theodore Roosevelt captain

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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 said at a Pentagon news conference last week.

As informed, 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, a statement issued by the US Department of Defense reads.

Based on facts found in the report, Gilday said his initial recommendation that Crozier reinstated was proven wrong.

In addition, Navy Rear Adm. Stuart Baker’s pending promotion to two-star rank has been put on hold, pending further review, Gilday said. Baker, the commander of Strike Group 9, was Crozier’s immediate superior.

“I previously believed that Captain Crozier should be reinstated following his relief in April, after conducting an initial investigation,” Gilday said at the conference on June 19.

“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. 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.”

“Both Crozier and Baker failed to move sailors off the aircraft carrier as quickly as they could have, and failed to move them to a safer environment more quickly,” Gilday added.

Additionally, he said, 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.”

As Naval Today reported in April, Crozier was relieved of command after warning that the navy was not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on board the ship docked in Guam. He urged the navy to engage more in battling the pandemic and saving the lives of nearly 5,000 sailors.

Crozier’s removal has been widely criticized and a petition was started at Change.org, urging the US Navy to reinstate the former commander. As of June 22, more than 533,000 people have signed the petition.

Gilday said “it is the findings of the more detailed investigation, rather than the existence of the leaked letter”, that have prevented Crozier from being reinstated as commander of the Roosevelt.

“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 concluded.

At the time the letter was sent, the US Navy reportedly had already made arrangements for off-ship lodging for Roosevelt sailors.

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