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DO NOT SECOND-GUESS THE MILITARY

I have been asked by a number of readers to comment on the dismissal of the Navy Captain whose ship was stricken with COVID19. As one who bends over backward to protect our military, I concur with the Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly removing Captain Brett Crozier from his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt for questionable conduct.

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Statement From SECNAV on Relief of CO Aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)

I am here today to inform you that today at my direction, the Commanding Officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Crozier, was relieved of command by the Carrier Strike Group Commander, Rear Admiral Stuart Baker.

The Executive Officer, Captain Dan Keeler, has assumed command temporarily until such time as Rear Admiral Select Carlos Sardiello arrives in Guam to assume command. Rear Admiral Select Sardiello is the former commanding officer of the Theodore Roosevelt so he is extremely well-acquainted with the ship, many members of its crew and the operations and capabilities of the ship itself. He is the best person in the Navy right now to take command under these circumstances.

As Secretary of the Navy, I could not be more proud of our men and women serving as part of the Navy and Marine Corps team. I can assure you that no one cares more than I do about their safety and welfare. I myself have a son in uniform, who is currently serving right now on active duty in Korea—one of the first nations in the world to have a significant spike in Coronavirus cases. I understand, both as a parent and a veteran, how critical our support lines are for the health and well-being of our people, especially now in the midst of a global pandemic.

But there is a larger strategic context, one full of national security imperatives, of which all our commanders must all be aware today. While we may not be at war in a traditional sense, neither are we truly at peace. Authoritarian regimes are on the rise. Many nations are reaching, in many ways, to reduce our capacity to accomplish our national goals. This is actively happening every day. It has been a long time since the Navy and Marine Corps team has faced this broad array of capable global strategic challengers. A more agile and resilient mentality is necessary, up and down the chain of command.

Perhaps more so than in the recent past, we require commanders with the judgment, maturity, and leadership composure under pressure to understand the ramifications of their actions within that larger dynamic strategic context. We all understand and cherish our responsibilities, and frankly our love, for all of our people in uniform, but to allow those emotions to color our judgment when communicating the current operational picture can, at best, create unnecessary confusion, and at worst, provide an incomplete picture of American combat readiness to our adversaries.

When the Commanding Officer of the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT decided to write his letter of 30 March 2020 that outlined his concerns for his crew in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of the Navy had already mobilized significant resources for days in response to his previous requests. On the same date marked on his letter, my Chief of Staff had called the CO directly, at my request, to ensure he had all the resources necessary for the health and safety of his crew.

The CO told my Chief of Staff that he was receiving those resources, and was fully aware of the Navy’s response, only asking that the he wished the crew could be evacuated faster. My Chief of Staff ensured that the CO knew that he had an open line to me to use at any time. He even called the CO again a day later to follow up. At no time did the CO relay the various levels of alarm that I, along with the rest of the world, learned from his letter when it was published two days later.

Once I read the letter, I immediately called the Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Gilday, and the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, ADM Aquilino. ADM Gilday had just read the letter that morning as well, and ADM Aquilino had it the day before. We had a teleconference within minutes of my reading of that article, including the Commander, SEVENTH Fleet, VADM William Merz, ADM Aquilino, ADM Gilday, the Department of the Navy’s Surgeon General, RADM Bruce Gillingham, and others. That evening, we held another teleconference with the entire chain of command.

The next day, I spoke with the CO of the THEODORE ROOSEVELT myself, and this morning, I have spoken to the TR’s Carrier Strike Group Commander, RDML Stuart Baker. RDML Baker did not know about the letter before it was sent to him via email by the CO. It is important to understand that the Strike Group Commander, the CO’s immediate boss, is embarked on the Theodore Roosevelt, right down the passageway from him. The letter was sent over non- secure, unclassified email even though that ship possesses some of the most sophisticated communications and encryption equipment in the Fleet.

It was sent outside the chain of command, at the same time the rest of the Navy was fully responding. Worse, the Captain’s actions made his Sailors, their families, and many in the public believe that his letter was the only reason help from our larger Navy family was forthcoming, which was hardly the case.

Command is a sacred trust that must be continually earned, both from the Sailors and Marines one leads, and from the institution which grants that special, honored privilege.

As I learned more about the events of the past week on board USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71), including my personal conversations with the Strike Group Commander, Commander, SEVENTH Fleet, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, the Chief of Naval Operations, and CAPT Crozier himself, I could reach no other conclusion than that Captain Crozier had allowed the complexity of his challenge with COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally, when acting professionally was what was needed most. We do, and we should, expect more from the Commanding Officers of our aircraft carriers.

I did not come to this decision lightly. I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interests of the safety and well-being of his crew. Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised alarms with the families of our Sailors and Marines with no plan to address those concerns. It raised concerns about the operational capabilities and operational security of the ship that could have emboldened our adversaries to seek advantage, and it undermined the chain of command who had been moving and adjusting as rapidly as possible to get him the help he needed.

For these reasons, I lost confidence in his ability to lead that warship as it continues to fight through this virus, get the crew healthy, so that it can continue to meet its national security requirements. In my judgement relieving him of command was in the best interests of the United States Navy and the nation in this time when the nation needs the Navy to be strong and confident in the face of adversity. The responsibility for this decision rests with me. I expect no congratulations for it, and it gives me no pleasure in making it. CAPT Crozier is an honorable man, who despite this uncharacteristic lapse of judgment, has dedicated himself throughout a lifetime of incredible service to our nation.

Pursuant to this action, and with my full support, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gilday has directed the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Robert Burke, to conduct an investigation into the circumstances and climate of the entire Pacific Fleet to help determine what may have contributed to this breakdown in the chain of command. We must ensure we can count on the right judgment, professionalism, composure, and leadership from our Commanding Officers everywhere on our Navy and Marine Corps team, but especially in the Western Pacific. I have no indication that there is a broader problem in this regard, but we have obligation to calmly and evenly investigate that nonetheless.

To our Commanding Officers, it would be a mistake to view this decision as somehow not supportive of your duty to report problems, request help, protect your crews, and challenge assumptions as you see fit.

This decision is not one of retribution. It is about confidence. It is not an indictment of character, but rather of judgement. While I do take issue with the validity of some of the points in Captain Crozier’s letter, he was absolutely correct in raising them.

It was the way in which he did this, by not working through and with his Strike Group Commander to develop a strategy to resolve the problems he raised, by not sending the letter to and through his chain of command, by not protecting the sensitive nature of the information contained within the letter appropriately, and lastly by not reaching out to me directly to voice is concerns, after that avenue had been provided to him through my team, that was unacceptable.

Let me be clear, you all have a duty to be transparent with your respective chains of command, even if you fear they might disagree with you. This duty requires courage, but it also requires respect for that chain of command, and for the sensitivity of the information you decide to share and the manner you choose to share it.

To read the release in full and in context, it can be found at:   <Source>

Politicization…

One might think that of all politicians, those that serve on the House Armed Services Committee would understand the Navy’s position and refrain from interfering in the maintenance of discipline and good order. But, then again the majority Democrats have shown little or no love for our Country, its Constitution, or its Commander-in-Chief.

HASC Leadership Joint Statement on the Dismissal of U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Captain

House Armed Services Committee leadership – including Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Subcommittee Chairs Joe Courtney (D-CT), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA) – today issued the following statement after Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announced that Captain Brett E. Crozier will be relieved of his post as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier that has been grappling with the spread of COVID-19 cases among its Sailors:

While Captain Crozier clearly went outside the chain of command, his dismissal at this critical moment – as the Sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt are confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic – is a destabilizing move that will likely put our service members at greater risk and jeopardize our fleet’s readiness.

[OCS: This is a lie and an insult to the XO – the ship’s Executive Officer, Captain Dan Keeler, and next in the chain of command. Both men are highly trained and highly qualified to command the ship.

It was the leaking of the letter to the media that did the damage to the Captain’s command.]

“The COVID pandemic presents a set of new challenges and there is much we still do not know. Captain Crozier was justifiably concerned about the health and safety of his crew, but he did not handle the immense pressure appropriately. However, relieving him of his command is an overreaction.

[OCS: It was not an inappropriate or ill-timed action as it was taken to maintain good order and discipline.]

Throwing the commanding officer overboard without a thorough investigation is not going to solve the growing crisis aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. What’s more, we are very concerned about the chilling effect this dismissal will have on commanders throughout the Department of Defense. Dismissing a commanding officer for speaking out on issues critical to the safety of those under their command discourages others from raising similar concerns.

[OCS: Bullsh*t!  The facts are clear and prima facie evidence of misconduct. The response was immediate and necessary. The Captain can appeal the decision after the fact should he wish to pursue the matter further.

This should have a chilling effect on those who use inappropriate communications channels or feel free to violate their command responsibilities by going outside the chain of command.

I sure as help it discourages others – there is no free speech in the military when it comes to command decisions, orders, and actions. Unless an order is unlawful, execute and STFU.]


“We are also concerned about the lack of guidance from Department of Defense leadership. Secretary Esper continues to say that commanders and non-commissioned officers should be calling the shots, forcing them to make decisions on matters outside of their expertise while under immense pressure.

[OCS: That’s why they are commanders and not congressional pussies who speak without knowledge. I would be more worried about our enemies’ infiltration of Congress and assuming high office than I would about an internal Navy matter].

“As the crew continues to grapple with this health crisis, the Navy should be focused first and foremost on the safety of our service members. Once they are secured, there will be ample time to identify what went wrong and who is to blame.” <Source>

[OCS: No! The first concern is the mission and the readiness to execute it. To the extent that this readiness is impaired by personnel issues is a major concern, but not the first concern.]

Bottom line…

What really happened is that some useful idiot leaked the letter to the media and it is the irresponsibility of the leaker and the media that cost Captain Crozier his position. Had the letter not been leaked, it is likely the Captain would have been counseled and issued a letter of reprimand which would have probably halted any upward career path to flag officer but left him in command of the ship until his next regularly scheduled review. And, it would not surprise me if we found the leaker to be a House Committee member. 

We wish Captain Crozier the best of luck, fair winds and following seas.

-- steve


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

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