Capt. Crozier Isn't the One to Relieve of Command

Navy to Sailors: Drop Dead

Captain Brett Crozier faced this choice: wait for Covid-19 to kill the sailors under his command or get them the life-saving care they deserve but upset his superiors in the process.

On one side, Captain Crozier had his career. On the other was his crew of over 4,000.

Thankfully, Captain Crozier put their lives first—ahead of himself, politics, and posturing.

The Navy should be proud of Captain Crozier.

Indeed, so should we all.

Captain Crozier's crew and their families are certainly proud of him and grateful to him. So am I. And I know a thing or two about fighting to get someone the medical care she desperately needed for a life-threatening disease that high-ranking officials didn't want to admit that she had.

For those requiring a brief primer, Captain Crozier was the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier in the Pacific fleet. Before border closings, social distancing, and quarantines, the Roosevelt docked in Vietnam, where her crew took }shore leave.

The coronavirus may have gotten aboard there. We can't be sure.

We do know, however, that 8 sick crew members were airlifted to a hospital a short time later. Unfortunately though, it was too late to stop the coronavirus from spreading on board.

Those first 8 cases ballooned into a few dozen; then 114. In the close quarters of an aircraft carrier, social distancing is impossible and quarantines are impractical. Warships are designed and equipped for the short-term triage of battle wounds. When it comes to the long-term containment and eradication of infectious diseases, they're no better—and indeed likely far worse—than less-cramped cruise ships.

After the Roosevelt left Vietnam, it docked in the U.S. territory of Guam.

But Crozier's superiors wouldn't evacuate his crew. Instead, Navy brass told the press that the Roosevelt was still combat-ready.

Understandably, the admiralty likely wanted to hide the impact of the coronavirus. It would've been preferable, after all, for would-be agitators and America's enemies to remain unaware the Roosevelt is compromised.

Yet those in the upper echelons of the Navy today care too much about maintaining appearances. For some time, their efforts have been ironically counterproductive. And in order for higher-ups to save face, too many American sailors have already been sacrificed.

For example, upon taking office, President Trump was relatively quick to pardon Kristian Saucier, who was charged with a serious federal felony for snapping a photograph aboard a Navy submarine.

Then, just last November, the president intervened in the court martial of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher. Navy prosecutors and investigators from the real NCIS were so hellbent to win that case (and thereby preserve their reputations) that they hacked Gallagher's attorney before trial to steal a peak at his confidential files.

Despite such over-the-top tactics, Gallagher was acquitted of a string of war crimes. Yet, he was found guilty of a single offense of—you guessed it—taking an unauthorized photograph with a dead detainee. According to those familiar with Navy practices, however, such conduct is typically handled with minor administrative measures rather than a court martial.

Moreover, the public revelations that arose from Gallagher's spirited defense seem to have gotten the Navy's brass much hotter under the collar than the conduct with which he was charged.

Perceiving an injustice, President Trump restored Gallagher's rank and pension.

Incredibly though, the commander-in-chief's intervention didn't deter the Navy's brass. In a fit of thinly-veiled (if not outright) insubordination, efforts were still taken to expel Gallagher from the SEALs after 20+ years in service.

President Trump ultimately replaced Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer in order to extinguish the apparent vendetta.

And last week, Spencer's replacement Thomas Modly relieved Captain Crozier.

You see, Crozier sent the memo below to approximately 30 people. Therein he described the rapidly-deteriorating situation aboard the Roosevelt.

As yet, there's no allegation that Crozier gave his memo to anyone unauthorized.

Somehow though, Crozier's memo made it into the pages of The San Francisco Chronicle. Only afterwards did Crozier's superiors allow him to evacuate his crew.

Thus, the controversy about Crozier's memo and command now revolves around this question: how many men and women aboard the Roosevelt were expendable to avoid looking weak in east Asia?

Captain Crozier's answer—as detailed in his memo—is zero.

Bear in mind too, the Navy hasn't seen combat in that area of the world since The Vietnam War. Further, every other contender in the region is also compromised by the coronavirus. Thus, the likelihood and the strategic value of keeping the situation aboard the Roosevelt a secret were minimal.

Now, the American People elected President Trump in no small part to bring home American servicemen from unnecessary and counterproductive dangers abroad. And he's been strenuously working towards that goal.

Indeed, we owe our men and women in uniform better than to allow them to die in vain. If the Navy's brass can't handle that, then we should replace ill-suited admirals with officers like Captain Brett Crozier.

Relieving Captain Crozier of command—in contrast—sends the wrong message to anyone who might enlist or reenlist in the Navy and to other commanding officers. Indeed, some of Crozier's superiors were surprised by his removal.

And while active-duty service members are supposed to refrain from petitioning the government, a supporter started a petition available here to restore him to command. It has over 250,000 signatures. The families of Crozier’s crew might want to start a White House petition to restore him to command because it would likely collect, just from former enlisted service members, the 100,000 signatures required to elicit a response.

Let's hope President Trump notices that much of the brass's anger about Captain Crozier's memo mirrors the outrage of many in Washington about the president's choice to tweet. Indeed, Captain Crozier likely resorted to his memo for reasons similar to those fueling @realDonaldTrump.

"Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases," wrote noted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."

Here, in full, is Captain Crozier's memo:




UNIT 100250 Box 1

FPO AP 96632


30 Mar 20



BLUF: If required the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT would embark all assigned Sailors, set sail, and be ready to fight and beat any adversary that dares challenge the US or our allies. The virus would certainly have an impact, but in combat we are willing to take certain risks that are not acceptable in peacetime. However, we are not at war, and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily. Decisive action is required now in order to comply with CDC and NAVADMIN 083/20 guidance and prevent tragic outcomes.

1. Problem Statement. With the crew embarked, TR is unable to comply with CDC protocols or NAVADMIN 083/20 guidance. Based on CDC guidelines and TR observations, the only effective method to preserve an individual's health is total isolation for 14+ days in accordance with the NAVADMIN Individual hotel/barracks rooms with separate heads). Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this. The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.

2. Inappropriate Focus on Testing. Testing has no direct influence on the spread of the COVID- l9 virus. It merely confirms the presence of the virus. Due to the close quarters required on a warship and the current number of positive cases, every single Sailor, regardless of rank, on board the TR must be considered “close contact” in accordance with the NAVADMIN. Testing will only be useful as the ship returns to work after isolation or quarantine to confirm the effectiveness of the quarantine period. Our focus now must be on quarantine and isolation in strict compliance with CDC and NAVADMIN guidance.

The COVID-19 test cannot prove a Sailor does not have the virus; it can only prove that a Sailor does. As an illustration, of the first 33 TR Sailors diagnosed with COVID-19, 21% (7 of those 33) infected Sailors were negative on a test, then subsequently presented with of COVID-19 infection within 1-3 days post-test.

Based on data since TR’S first case, approximately 21% of the Sailors that tested negative and are currently moving into group restricted movement ashore are currently infected, will develop over the next several days, and will proceed to infect the remainder of their shore- based restricted group.

3. Inappropriate Quarantine and Isolation. With the exceptions of a handful of senior officer staterooms, none of the berthing onboard a warship is appropriate for quarantine or isolation. Thousands of “close contact” Sailors require quarantine in accordance with guidance. TR has begun to move personnel off ship into shore-based group restricted movement locations. Of the off ship locations currently available, only one complies with the NAVADMIN guidance. Infected Sailors reside in these off ship locations. Two Sailors have already tested positive in an open bay gymnasium equipped with cots. Although marginally better than a warship, group quarantine sites are not a solution and are not in accordance with current guidance.

In order to stop the spread of the virus, the CDC and the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center both recommend individual quarantine. They both recommend against group quarantine. They recommend limited or no contact with other exposed individuals and no use of the same facilities or items exposed individuals have touched. NAVADMIN 083/20 echoes this guidance.

The environment most conducive to spread of the disease is the environment the crew of the TR is in right now, both aboard ship and ashore:

a. Large amounts of Sailors in a confined space

b. Open, shared berthing

c. Shared restroom facilities

d. Confined, shared workspaces and computers

e. Shared messing for large numbers

f. Meals cooked food provided by exposed personnel

g. Mandatory watch/operational tasks demanding consistent close contact (food preparation, service cleaning, TFCC watches, unavoidable meetings to plan execute COVID response actions, etc.)

h. Movement about the ship requires consistent close contact with other exposed individuals (confined passageways, previously touched ladder railings/hatch levers/door knobs etc.)

4. Ineffectiveness of Current Strategy: Based on current limitations (lack of appropriate quarantine and isolation facilities, inability to effectively achieve social distancing), TR has instituted limited measures to slow the spread of the disease. We have moved a small percentage of the crew off ship, increased the frequency of thorough cleaning and attempted some social distancing. The current strategy will only slow the Spread. The current plan in execution on TR will not achieve virus eradication on any timeline.

5. Lessons Learned from the Diamond Princess: From an epidemiological research article on the infection onboard Diamond Princess (the only comparable situation encountered thus far) (Roklov et a1.) titled COVID-19 outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship: estimating the epidemic potential and effectiveness of public health countermeasures.”

“Cruise ships carry a large number of people in confined spaces with relative homogeneous mixing. On 3 February, 2020, an outbreak of COVID-19 on cruise ship Diamond Princess was reported following an index case on board around 21-25 January. By 4 February, public health measures such as removal and isolation of ill passengers and quarantine of non-ill passengers were implemented. By 20 February, 619 of 3,700 passengers and crew were tested positive. We estimated that without any interventions within the time period of 21 January to 19 February, 2920 out of the 3700 would have been infected. Isolation and quarantine therefore prevented 2307 cases. We showed that an early evacuation of all passengers on 3 February would have been associated with 76 infected persons.” (As opposed to 619)

The final sentence of the abstract:

“Conclusions: The cruise ship conditions clearly amplified an already highly transmissible disease. The public health measures prevented more than 2000 additional cases compared to no interventions. However, evacuating all passengers and crew early on in the outbreak would have prevented many more passengers and crew from infection.”

The Diamond Princess was able to more effectively isolate people onboard than TR, due to a much higher percentage of individualized and compartmentalized accommodations onboard for paying customers. Their measures still allowed hundreds of people to become infected. best-case results, given the current environment, are likely to be much worse.

6. Proposed New Strategy: There are two end states TR could achieve:

a. Maximize warfighting readiness and capacity as quickly as possible. No timeline necessary. We go to war with the force we have and fight sick. We never achieve a COVID- free TR. There will be losses to the virus.

b. Achieve a TR. Requires strict adherence to CDC guidelines and a methodical approach to achieve a clean ship. This requires immediate and decisive action. It will take time and money.

As war is not imminent, we recommend pursuing the peace time end state.

TR has two primary goals in order to achieve that end state:

a. Prevent unnecessary deaths, reduce the number of Sailors that contract and eliminate future virus spread.

b. Regain and maximize warfighting readiness and capacity as quickly as possible.

In order to achieve these goals, a clean ship is required. Every Sailor onboard must be guaranteed virus-lice and the ship environment must be disinfected. One infected Sailor introduced to the ship will spread the virus. Off ship lodging in compliance with CDC and NAVADMIN guidance is required for over 4,000 Sailors to achieve a clean ship and crew.

7. Conclusion. Decisive action is required. Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed US. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. A portion of the crew (approximately 10%) would have to stay aboard to  run the reactor plant, sanitize the ship, ensure security, and provide for contingency response to emergencies. This is a necessary risk. It will enable the carrier and air wing to get back underway as quickly as possible while ensuring the health and safety of our Sailors. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.

There are challenges associated with securing individualized lodging for our crew. This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset our Sailors.

Request all available resources to find NAVADMIN and CDC compliant quarantine rooms for my entire crew as soon as possible.



Captain Crozier has since gotten the illness himself and is being treated.