Home/Daniel Larison/Captain Crozier Has Been Relieved of Command

Captain Crozier Has Been Relieved of Command

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) is moored pier side at Naval Station North Island (2016) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jimmi Lee Bruner/Released)

Reuters reports that the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Capt. Brett Crozier, has been relieved of his command following his request to evacuate most of the crew from the ship on account of the coronavirus outbreak spreading there:

The U.S. Navy announced on Thursday it had relieved the commander of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote a scathing letter that leaked to the public asking Navy leadership for stronger measures to control a coronavirus outbreak onboard.

NBC News also reported on the decision to remove Crozier:

The move is expected to be announced in a briefing by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly Thursday evening. The official reason for Crozier’s relief of duty is a loss of trust and confidence, according to the officials who spoke to NBC News

When the story of the captain’s letter first broke on Tuesday, it was widely assumed that the captain had put his career in jeopardy. Even so, it is a disgrace that he is being penalized for speaking out on behalf of his crew. Relieving Crozier of his command in the same week that he acted to save the lives of the sailors under his command is just about the most dishonorable thing that the Navy could have done.

The official excuse for the decision that the acting Secretary of the Navy gave is not very compelling:

The Navy removed Crozier after becoming increasingly convinced that he was involved in leaking the letter to the media to force the service to address his concerns, a defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Modly said that Crozier showed “poor judgment” by sending the letter by email to a group of 20 or 30 people. He did not directly accuse Crozier of leaking the letter, which was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, but noted that it appeared in Crozier’s hometown newspaper.

I don’t know if the captain was involved in getting the letter to the press, but if he resorted to doing something that extreme I assume it was because his superiors were ignoring his legitimate concerns about the health and safety of the crew. Given the Defense Secretary’s own dismissive comments just this week, that would not be hard to believe. If the captain wasn’t responsible for leaking the letter, the Navy’s punishment is completely unfair. The acting Secretary faults Crozier for not acting “professionally,” but it is not hard to figure out that the real reason for his punishment is that his letter embarrassed the Navy by calling attention to a situation that they were not taking seriously enough.

There has been no accountability for the massive failures that have allowed the pandemic to spread all across the country, but when an officer raises an alarm that saves lives on his ship he is the one that pays a professional price. The only person in the government that has lost his job as a result of the pandemic is a military officer trying to keep his crew alive. In the Trump era, military officers that tell the truth and do the right thing by the people under their command are ridiculed and fired, and the war criminals are given a free pass. Integrity in our officer corps should be a cause for promotion and praise, but under this administration it is met with punishment. Meanwhile, dishonorable and criminal conduct is rewarded by the president. That’s shameful, and it sends a terrible message to the rest of the military and to the country.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles