By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on April 5, 2020
The U.S. Navy relieved Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday following the publication of his memo to military officials pleading for help with an outbreak of the coronavirus on his aircraft carrier. The memo was first published in the San Francisco Chronicle and quickly spread as a worldwide news story.
Capt. Crozier had written a March 30, 2020 memo demanding that Navy officials allow him to take the aircraft carrier to the port in Guam to offload sailors who contracted the COVID-19 virus. In a matter of days, the number of sailors who tested positive for the new coronavirus skyrocketed from 2 to at least 114. The Navy airlifted the first 8 infected sailors from the aircraft carrier to medical facilities before allowing the carrier to dock in Guam.
"We are at war. Sailors do not need to die," wrote Capt. Crozier. "If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset -- our sailors.
Thomas Modly, Acting Secretary of the Navy said he made the decision to fire Capt. Crozier. Some military officials suspected Crozier of leaking the memo to the press. Modly said the memo gave the impression the Navy was responding to the COVID-19 outbreak only due to Crozier's plea, which he said was not true.
Modly claims that he made the decision to fire Crozier without input from the White House. Washington insiders say Modly's claim in this regard is incredulous, especially in light of President Trump's propensity to micro-manage potentially embarrassing situations.
Modly is generally viewed as a placeholder political flunkie for the Trump administration. In firing Crozier, Modly demonstrated that he cared more about chain-of-command protocols than he did about saving the lives of sailors in his Naval service. Apparently, the Trump administration did not brief Modly on what "time is of the essence" means when a Naval Captain is trying to contain an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus on board his vessel at sea.
When Capt. Crozier departed the aircraft carrier in Guam, he received a rousing ovation from the sailors under his command. Crozier was prepared to sacrifice his Naval career in order to protect his sailors on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt from the deadly and quickly spreading COVID-19 virus. There is no telling how many sailor’s lives were saved because of Captain Crozier's desperate pleas for help while his aircraft carrier was at sea.
Now Modly is threatening Captain Crozier with disciplinary action. Clearly, President Trump should intervene to stop the disciplinary proceedings and promptly reinstate Captain Crozier's command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Trump should also publicly reprimand Thomas Modly for choosing to elevate form over substance in Capt. Crozier's brave efforts to battle a deadly virus aboard his ship at sea.
In my book, Captain Crozier is an American hero. Modly is an underqualified and misguided Washington political appointee who is trying to outshine a real Naval hero.