Everyone is up in arms about the fact that the Navy brass fired Captain Brett Crozier, of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, after Crozier complained about people on his ship being infected with COVID-19.  To many people, he was a lone man fighting a hardened bureaucracy on behalf of the men and women in his care.  To others, he was a dangerous malcontent who placed his entire ship at risk by ignoring rules that exist for a reason.

The report about Captain Brett Crozier, whose ship, the USS Roosevelt, was docked in Guam, broke like a bomb on March 31.  Here’s the Stars and Stripes report on that day:

The captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt has requested permission to remove most of the aircraft carrier’s crew from the ship and isolate roughly 4,000 sailors to help curtail a coronavirus outbreak aboard the vessel.

Capt. Brett Crozier wrote in an unaddressed letter Monday to Navy leadership that the ship’s environment is “most conducive to spread of the disease” with open shared sleeping areas, shared restrooms and workspaces, and confined passageways to move through on the ship. He wrote the Roosevelt’s crew is unable to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Navy procedures to protect the health of sailors through individual isolation on the ship for 14 or more days.

“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this. The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating,” Crozier wrote.

Crozier was an instant hero for taking a stand on behalf of his crew.  Indeed, the Navy’s initial response was to say Crozier would not be punished for being so candid about conditions aboard his ship.

However, two days after the Crozier story broke, the Navy removed him from his command.  People on both sides of the political aisle were outraged.  This seemed like the worst kind of military rigidity, with rules and regulations triumphing over the well-being of America’s sons and daughters.

Except, as always, things are more complicated than the first news reports indicate.  It turns out that Crozier wasn’t taking a last-ditch stand after the Navy ignored him.  Instead, according to Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Crozier may have ignored the all-important chain of command:

“[Acting Navy Secretary Thomas] Modly is the responsible, accountable official to the American people. And he had reason to believe that the captain operated outside the chain of command and he relieved him,” Milley told Fox News’s Outnumbered Overtime on Friday.

Milley said there is an ongoing investigation into what happened, but he trusted Modly and his judgment and would support him.

He added, “The secretary of the Navy is responsible to the American people for the good order and discipline of the Navy. And when he loses trust and confidence in a ship’s captain, then that’s it. It’s target down. And we’re moving on to the next, to the next task.”

Modly said Crozier had cc’ed more than 20 people, including some outside the chain of command, over unsecured and unclassified systems, assuring the memo’s leak.

He also said Crozier did not speak to his direct superior, carrier strike group commander Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, about his concerns before sending the memo, despite Baker being on the carrier and living within feet of Crozier.

Modly said Crozier was not fired for expressing concerns, but the way he chose to do so.

The chain of command exists not merely to keep order.  It also exists to keep information from the public.  Crozier commanded one of only ten Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the Navy.  These ships are considered the backbone of America’s naval fighting force.

By going public with his complaints, Crozier essentially sent a giant banner up into the sky announcing to America’s enemies that one of the primary weapons in America’s arsenal might be out of commission.  You can see, therefore, why the Navy took a dim view of Crozier bypassing the chain of command to announce that he had a problem.

If more information comes out saying Crozier had been banging his head fruitlessly against the military hierarchy, well, then this post is instantly obsolete.  However, as long as it appears that he went public without first following the rules, then the Navy was correct to fire him.  On the information available, his conduct created a clear and present danger to American preparedness.

9 thoughts on “There’s another side of the story to the fired Navy Captain”
  1. As a navy brat, I agree with the chain of command as without it there is chaos within the military and this Captain knew the rules. It is not like congress these days where a simple accusation wins the lunatic’s support. He will need proof he started with his superior’s rejections to even begin his attempt to move anywhere towards the next in line in that queue. As a missile he couldn’t have screwed up worse. Even if you detest your superiors you follow the chain of command and in this case you do not go public with something like this.

    And funny thing here, even in regular business that is the rule. Your boss first, then their boss, then up the ladder and as a retired CPA, BSA, programmer who always ferreted out problems where ever I worked to the protest of those who either colluded or just did not like change, I used the chain of command but always documented each step up the chain.

    And if this captain had done that in any way I don’t think he would have been removed immediately. We will see it he has any proof soon. I suspect todays lunatic processes in congress with politician idiots confused him and he thought the rules of reporting were much more relaxed due to the political insanity. Fools follow the DNC today.

  2. I am not military nor do I know the “chain of command”. However, I realize that in war, those restrictions must be kept. However, this is different. We have a different war we are fighting and that war took over this Captain’s ship. He was calling for help to rescue his men. They were without weapons to fight such a war. He saw they were sick and possible dying and no way to help them or protect the other men on the ship. He felt compassion and wanted to save them and whatever “chain of command” was there, someone was not listening. And now we learn that one of his men on that ship has died from the virus. I could never fault him for what he did. Whatever happens to him in the military will never match his bravery in trying to save his men. God bless him

  3. Q-Why do we always hear the worst, about anyone and anything, BEFORE all the facts are known?

    A-So we will “prejudge” a situation and, instantly, place blame on the “purported” bad guy!

    Note-That’s the way the propaganda machine operates.

  4. I don’t give a crap about the chain of command! The Captain chose to try to protect his men and women. That is his primary job period. If we were at war then then things would be different. Time to weed out all of the ridiculous Navy Brass from the top on down before they crate more problems.

  5. Deal is, that even within the chain of command–there can exist situations that the military SOP book of responses cannot foresee. To this former enlisted person–there do exist times when the chain of command is not conducive to the situation. Sorry, but the “I was just following orders” went out with our Nuremburg trials and executions of Nazi leaders. Or even more recent–when Lt. Calley committed murder, because he was ordered to do so. Sorry, but there exist times that stepping outside that precious chain of command–and doing the right thing–shows what made the man. The after effect of the two examples I mention–that following orders–now reads “lawful orders”, and if they fall outside that criteria, you must question them. And that was the jest of many of the “ethics training” we received during my time in.
    Now–being placed in charge of that big floating airport–means that the Captain is also charged with seeing to the conditions his crew exist in. Having toured several Naval vessels–the crew sleeps in very close quarters, and the idea of social distancing–simply not going to happen. And with the virus already being present–the very conditions–better than those in older ships enjoyed. Gone are the days of the plank toilet seats, with sea water sluices. And I hope that the days of hot bunking are also a thing of the past–but without knowing, can see how a single infection could cripple a crew in a very short time. This one reason, no US Service personnel go anywhere without their shot records being present and up to date. I can still remember our sore arms–when deployment time came up–and those that lacked proof–got theirs all over again. I learned to carry my shot record–that written proof kept me from becoming the human pincushion again.
    Now–the point–the Captain of the ship–had a medical department–almost a fully equipped hospital ward–and yet nowhere near big enough to quarantine almost ten percent of his crew. How long do you think it would have taken–for his crew to hit the fifty percent rate? And how long before any hope of being combat ready, would be totally lacking. It is not like the crew has a lot of extra hands–instead, in our austere days–more likely, those sailors are doing the most with the least–and manpower requirements are built to maintain a quality force–with very few slackers in the system. And just where was he supposed to shelter in place–those unlucky that tested positive for the virus? Even himself, tests positive. Along with the decline in readiess, there too would be a fretting worry about the loved ones ashore–the lack of knowing, worse than reality. I know–military members signed on to do a job–but human nature being what it is–how long before it decays those men that must perform at the top of their games. From actual ship crew–to the airdales, pilots and others, whose mission comprise of some very stressful and demanding actions.
    Chain of Command–exists to ensure that you get answers from those appointed to lead you. If they fail, there are other routes available. And without knowing just what messages were sent prior to his going off the given route–we, in the civilian world–myself included–have little room to judge his action–good or bad. The fact that his crew held him in high praise–even after being “fired”, which angered the Actin Sec. of the Navy–enough that he too, broke cardinal rules–the one that comes to mind–Praise in Public, chew out in Private–Never let anger drive your decisions. The only exception to this rule, is if it is a direct safety violation–and you use it as a constructive example–to raise others to be aware and alert to the situation. Perhaps if those in the five sided building had issued a directive about this–and given a sure route to report–something that it seems was lacking–and the actual implications of such a virus aboard a vessel, base etc, and the steps needed to make it less a deadly one–should have been in the Sec. of Def. and his underlings–and the Captain should never have had to use the route this took. Sorry but that to me, means that each of those lofty Congress appointed leaders–should be called on the carpet, long before the Captain, whose only sin–caring enough about his ship, its crew, and the mission enough to beach his career–one that up to this point–well displayed the right stuff.

  6. Reporting it is one thing, but how it is reported is an entirely different topic. He could have placed everyone on the ship in harms way by not keeping it secure!

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