Captain’s Ouster From Virus-Plagued Navy Ship Faces Full Probe

Crew assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt listen as Vice Adm. William Merz, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, answers questions during an April 7 visit to the ship at Naval Base Guam. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Ordering a detailed investigation of the Covid-19 outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the acting head of the Navy on Wednesday said the preliminary look raised “unanswered questions.”

“This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt,” Acting Secretary of the Navy James McPherson said in a statement. 

The initial investigation of the outbreak on the carrier included a recommendation that the Navy reinstate Captain Brett Crozier to his position in command of the carrier, the Associated Press and other outlets reported last week.

Crozier was relieved of his position on April 2 after the leak of a memo he sent to multiple Naval officers pleading for a faster response to the outbreak. The captain’s removal — which was met with leaked video of sailors cheering and chanting his name as he departed the ship — drew considerable public attention.

That outrage was amplified by a visit to the ship by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who criticized Crozier as “too naive or too stupid” to lead the crew during an address to sailors on board. Modly stepped down on April 7 after his remarks on the ship became public. 

Admiral Mike Gilday, who serves as chief of naval operations, had presented the results of the preliminary investigation to top military officials, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

Separately on Wednesday, the Navy announced the USS Teddy Roosevelt is preparing to leave Guam, where it has been docked since March 27. Covid-19 has killed one of more than 900 sailors onboard the ship who tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Navy’s most recent update Tuesday.

More than 4,000 people assigned to the ship have been in quarantine after testing negative for Covid-19, and one sailor is in a Navy hospital in Guam with Covid-19 symptoms.

The Navy has said it will likely take “several days” to move the sailors back aboard the carrier. 

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