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The Navy is having a leadership crisis – due to COVID-19

Captain Brett Crozier was relieved from his post after an email was leaked regarding to COVID-19 aboard his ship.

As a Navy veteran, I was a tad upset when Captain Brett Crozier was fired from his post as Commanding Officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. From a variety of sources, Crozier was well liked by his crew and was cheered when he left the ship. All Crozier had the gall to do was say that he was worried about his Sailors, who at the time were dealing with a coronavirus outbreak.

Viruses love ships. Densely packed people without anywhere to go are a breeding ground for it to spread. Norovirus is a prime example. But with COVID-19 as contagious as it is, a Navy aircraft carrier could have had two thousand cases in the blink of an eye.

Captain Crozier had sent an email to his Chain of Command requesting help for his Sailors when they pulled into Guam. Somehow, either through Crozier himself or through someone else, that email was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. Crozier’s alleged mortal sin was revealing the operational status of a Navy vessel, with many people crying about operational security (OPSEC) violations.

Listen, OPSEC violations have been happening since the inception of the program. Almost no one ever gets fired for an OPSEC violation. Hell, Hilary Clinton got away with having classified information on an unclassified, unauthorized personal server. So, when the acting Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Thomas Modly fired Crozier, it raised some eyebrows. Captain Crozier seemed like he genuinely cared for his crew.

But if firing the man wasn’t enough, SECNAV Modly flew to Guam, went aboard the Roosevelt, and laid into Crozier over the ship’s public announcement system (1MC).  

As Lara Seligman at Politico noted this about Modly’s announcement to the crew:

In a speech to the crew that was later leaked to the media, Modly called Crozier’s actions “naïve” and “stupid.” The decision to give the address, as well as the abrupt move to fire Crozier before uniformed Navy officials had completed an investigation into the incident, crossed a critical line, upsetting the delicate balance between civilian and military control of the service, former officials said.

After an audio recording of the address was leaked, Modly offered an apology. This apology came off more akin to “sorry I got caught” instead of heartfelt admission of guilt. And after more outrage, Modly resigned his post.

Now, because of a bungled handling, the Navy is down a carrier captain and a SECNAV. What frustrates me the most is that Sailors onboard the Roosevelt may have lost the best commanding officer they may ever have during the Navy career. This entire situation smells to high heaven, when commanding officers are being relieved for daring to care about their crew.

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