On April 2, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly relieved Capt. Brett Crozier of command of the nuclear carrier USS Roosevelt for sending his request for assistance over non-secure email to a “broad array of people” rather than up the chain of command. He stated that Crozier “allowed the complexity of the challenge of the COVID breakout on the ship (which started nine days earlier) to overwhelm his ability to act professionally.”

The crew cheered Capt. Crozier when he departed the ship in Guam. Modley then flew to Guam after the firing, and directly addressed the ship’s crew, categorizing Capt. Crozier as “too naïve or too stupid — or perhaps even deliberately insubordinate” — over his handling of the ship’s coronavirus outbreak.

I think Capt. Crozier, in transmitting a personal message, did what he needed to do to shake things loose related to what was occurring on his ship, and I think the Navy did what it had to do in its “Chain of Command” reprimand. I do feel the Navy was tone deaf in how they handled it. I felt Modley should also be relieved. (PostScript — Modley was pressured to resign).

Prior to my Blue Angel tour, and following Vietnam combat and instructor tours as a naval aviator in the early 1970s, I was an Admiral’s Aide to Commander Carrier Group 3. We were based out of Alameda Naval Air Station, but spent most of our time embarked on the USS Midway, Enterprise, Coral Sea, and Constellation during my two-year tour.

It is likely that Capt. Crozier would have been in face to face contact with his ComCarGroup 9 Admiral (Baker) who likely would have been deployed on the carrier with his staff. Operational status reports would have been sent to the Pacific Fleet Commander in San Diego multiple times per day depending on the level of activity, so certainly there would have been no surprises that COVID-19 was an immediate threat to the crew.

Where was the clear guidance from those in overall command when all we were seeing on the news since late January were virus-infected cruise ships? Every response to potential Navy conflict at sea is studied and planned; why didn’t Crozier’s chain of command provide contingency orders in February in case of an outbreak? Concurrently, Crozier must have felt enormous pressure in trying to maintain his operational mission requirements while watching his crew get decimated by the virus.

Another article stated, “Hours after a leaked letter from the Commanding Officer of the embattled carrier Theodore Roosevelt pleading for more support from the Navy leaked to the public, the head of U.S. Pacific Fleet (North Island) told reporters he is working as fast as he can to get a plan in place to rotate sailors off the ship.” Sure seems like he and his staff, as well as his superiors should have been doing this weeks earlier.

Crozier’s letter, unauthorized as it was, certainly rang the alarm for anyone that would listen. After a highly successful and decorated Navy career, he certainly wasn’t panicked or clueless as Modley accused. The fact that it was transmitted was counter to what RADM Baker of ComCarGru 9 would have done according to an article in the public domain, which is an absolute no-no in terms of Chain of Command. But at that point, Capt. Crozier must have kissed off his career and sent it anyway.

Not a high water mark for the Navy, which I still hold in the highest regard. I could not have had better experiences with leaders during my time in the service. Maybe that was before the politicizing of the Navy took hold. The crew cheered for Capt. Crozier when he departed and they cheered when Modley got the boot. On reflection maybe Captain Crozier ought to become the Acting Secretary of the Navy during this pandemic!