Top US Navy Leaders Recommend Reinstating Captain of COVID-19-Infected USS Roosevelt

© REUTERS / Nguyen Huy KhamThe USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is pictured as it enters the port in Da Nang, Vietnam, March 5, 2020
The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is pictured as it enters the port in Da Nang, Vietnam, March 5, 2020 - Sputnik International
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US Navy officials on Friday recommended that Captain Brett E. Crozier, the former commanding officer of the COVID-19-infected aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, be restored to his post on the ship. Crozier was relieved of duty after he wrote a letter to US Navy leaders pleading for support in quarantining the crew.

According to a report by the New York Times, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper received the recommendation to reinstate Crozier from Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael M. Gilday and acting Navy Secretary James McPherson. After receiving the guidance, Esper asked for more time to consider whether to reinstate the captain. In a statement, 

© AFP 2022 / SEAN LYNCHCaptain Brett Crozier at the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt
Top US Navy Leaders Recommend Reinstating Captain of COVID-19-Infected USS Roosevelt - Sputnik International
Captain Brett Crozier at the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt
In a statement Wednesday, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman stated that "Secretary Esper received a verbal update from the acting Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations on the Navy's preliminary inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. After the Secretary receives a written copy of the completed inquiry, he intends to thoroughly review the report and will meet again with Navy leadership to discuss next steps. He remains focused on and committed to restoring the full health of the crew and getting the ship at sea again soon."

The US Navy is expected to reveal the findings of its investigation into the incident on Friday afternoon.

​During a news conference on April 3, then-acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly explained that Crozier was not being relieved of duty for writing the letter but because he sent it outside the chain of command. Doing so, Modly noted, "raised alarm bells unnecessarily" and undermined the efforts by the Navy to contain the virus. 

Modly also noted that Crozier "demonstrated extremely poor judgment" amid the outbreak and that sending the letter so broadly was "completely unnecessary to do."

"It created the perception that the Navy is not on the job, the government is not on the job and it’s just not true," Modly said.

However, when Crozier walked off the vessel on April 3 after being relieved of duty, videos of several hundred sailors on the Roosevelt cheering his name went viral, generating a great deal of public interest regarding the incident. Just a few days later, on April 7, Modly submitted his resignation letter after calling Crozier “too naive or too stupid” to be in command if he thought his letter to the Navy would not reach the public.

“He [Modly] resigned of his own accord, putting the Navy and the sailors above self so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward,” Esper said in a statement at the time. “His care for the sailors was genuine.” 

“I have the deepest respect for anyone who serves our country, and who places the greater good above all else. Secretary Modly did that today, and I wish him all the best,” Esper added.

Crozier ended up testing positive for COVID-19. On Thursday, the US Navy said it had completed testing on all 4,938 crew members aboard the Roosevelt. Around 17% of the crew has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a report by the New York Times.

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