U.S. Capt. Brett Crozier has been relieved from his duty on Thursday as commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier, after he raised his concerns about the outbreak of COVID-19 aboard his boat.
Capt. Crozier wrote a strongly worded letter to Navy leadership, detailing his concerns about the spread of the virus throughout the ship, which carries a crew of nearly 5,000 men and women. The letter was later leaked to the media and generated a headlines across the globe according to NBC News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly justified the removal of Crozier from his post because he sent the letter over "non-secure unclassified email" to a "broad array of people." Modly said that Crozier should have instead sent the letter up the chain of command.
"I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew," said Modly. "Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns."
Modly is taking full responsibility for the decision to remove Crozier, whom he also praised before finally concluding that the captain "allowed the complexity of the challenge of the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally."
"The responsibility for this decision rests with me," Modly added. "I expect no congratulations for it. Captain Crozier is an incredible man."
Several top Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee have come out and with some harsh criticism over the decision to remove Crozier.
“The dismissal of Captain Crozier at this critical moment, as the sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt are confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, is a reckless, political move that reeks of undue command influence," read the statement that was written by chairman Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, subcommittee chairs Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, Rep. John Garamendi of California and Rep. Jackie Speier of California.
Joe Biden was also critical of the Navy's acting secretary, in a statement he wrote claiming that Modly, "shot the messenger — a commanding officer who was faithful to both his national security mission and his duty to care for his sailors, and who rightly focused attention on a broader concern about how to maintain military readiness during this pandemic."
Last week, the USS Roosevelt docked into a port in Guam after multiple crew members tested positive for the virus. There were 93 positive test results of sailors and another 1,000 people were taken off the carrier and placed into isolation on Guam.
It's expected that a total, 2,700 people will disembark the ship this week, leaving only a small crew to remain onboard for the purpose of maintaining the carrier.
A video below taken by someone aboard the ship shows Capt. Crozier receiving a standing ovation from his sailors as he exits the vessel on a port in Guam.