00:17 GMT07 March 2021
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    Captain Brett Crozier, commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was relieved of his command last week after penning an ‘inappropriate’ open letter to Navy officials requesting urgent help for his men in addressing an outbreak of COVID-19 on his ship. The fallout from the fiasco prompted at least one senior Navy official to resign.

    Senior officials including Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and Admiral Mike Gilday, the Navy’s chief of operations, say they’re not ruling out reinstating Captain Crozier as the public relations disaster over his dramatic firing continues to smolder.

    “We’ve taking nothing off the table,” Esper said, speaking to CBS News on Friday. “My inclination is always to support the chain of command, and to take the recommendations seriously,” he added.

    “There are always extreme cases where going outside the chain of command makes sense. That’s why we want to see where this investigation takes us,” Esper stressed.

    A day earlier, Admiral Gilday similarly indicated that he wasn’t taking any “options off the table” as far as Crozier’s fate goes, telling AP that he has yet to speak to the former commander, who remains in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. Gilday stressed that he wanted to find out about what it was that motivated Crozier to email his letter out to officials warning about the COVID-19 outbreak on his ship.

    In his letter, a copy of which was leaked to the press late last month, Crozier urged that immediate action be taken by the Navy to halt the carrier’s operations, stressing that his ship was “not at war,” and that “sailors do not need to die.” He urged “the majority of personnel” to be removed and isolated from the ship for a two week period. The Pentagon initially refused to evacuate the vessel, removing Crozier from duty, accusing him of demonstrating “extremely poor judgement” and making the Navy and the government look bad.

    In this Nov. 15, 2019, photo U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship's flight deck while conducting routine operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

    Later, after tests showed that some 416 of the ship’s sailors had tested positive for COVID-19, the Navy ended up following Crozier’s recommendations, quarantining 2,700 sailors on Guam.

    Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly courted controversy after calling Crozier “naïve and stupid” before apologizing and resigning amid pressure by senior lawmakers to have him fired.

    A total of four US carriers have confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard. On Friday, France reported 50 COVID-19 cases aboard its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, with three sailors evacuated to hospital in mainland France by helicopter as the warship continues to chart its course for its home port of Toulon.

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