Navy Leader Says Fired Carrier Captain Should Be Reinstated

A jet launches from the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on March 18, 2020. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh/U.S. Navy via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The top officer in the Navy has reportedly recommended the reinstatement of an aircraft carrier captain who was fired over his demand for swift action to protect his crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt from an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Navy Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of his position as captain of the aircraft carrier on April 2, shortly after a memo he sent to multiple Naval officers pleading for a faster response to a coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship leaked.

Crozier’s removal sparked public outrage amid the growing pandemic and leaked video of his departure from the aircraft carrier showed sailors cheering and chanting his name.

Capt. Brett Crozier, then-commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, addresses the crew on Jan. 17, 2020. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alexander Williams/U.S. Navy via AP)

The outcry from the public, including members of Congress, grew louder after then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly went aboard the ship and said Crozier was “too naive or too stupid” to lead the crew. Modly stepped down on April 7 after his remarks became public.

Admiral Mike Gilday, the Navy’s top officer, met with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Friday morning to discuss the findings of an investigation into the outbreak aboard the carrier and suggested Crozier be reinstated, according to the Associated Press and other media reports citing officials familiar with the matter.

Gilday separately made the recommendation to General Mark Milley, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Navy declined to comment on or confirm the reports. A Defense Department spokesperson deferred comment to the Navy.

Jonathan Hoffman, a spokesman for Esper, said at a Department of Defense press briefing earlier Friday that Esper would receive the results of the probe into the outbreak aboard the carrier with “an open mind” and that he is “generally inclined to support Navy leadership in their decisions.”

The Navy on Thursday said it has tested all sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is now docked in Guam. Eight-hundred and forty sailors have tested positive as of Thursday, while 4,098 have tested negative and 88 have recovered. So far, one sailor assigned to the ship has died. 

Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon should reinstate Crozier immediately.

“While Captain Crozier’s actions at the outset of the health crisis aboard the TR were drastic and imperfect, it is clear he only took such steps to protect his crew,” Smith said in a statement. “Not only did Captain Crozier have the full support of his crew, he also attempted to work within the chain of command. During this time of crisis, Captain Crozier is exactly what our sailors need: a leader who inspires confidence.”

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