The Navy captain who has been at the center of controversy for penning a scathing letter to the Navy's top command over a lagging response to coronavirus ravaging his crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt nuclear aircraft carrier in the West Pacific — now docked at Guam amid the emergency — has tested positive for COVID-19.
The New York Times reports that two Naval Academy classmates of Capt. Brett E. Crozier's who are close to him and his family confirmed the diagnoses even as the US Navy remains mum. There are currently at least 155 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among sailors aboard the aircraft carrier, according to the Pentagon.
"The commander began exhibiting symptoms before he was removed from the warship on Thursday, two of his classmates said," NYT reports.
He had been relieved of command but kept his military rank after the letter was leaked to The San Francisco Chronicle. He expressed in writing that the Navy's prioritizing military readiness at a moment the virus threatened to spread across his close quarters crew of some 5,000 total sailors was putting lives at risk.
“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,” Crozier had written. If the Navy focuses on being battle ready, it will lead to “losses to the virus,” Crozier had said.
The firing has unleashed a torrent of criticism against Trump, while others argued that in the military, following your conscience often means losing your stripes.
The Pentagon, however, framed it in terms of irresponsible utilization of "chain of command" and unclassified communications systems, putting national security at risk.
The Times reports further:
Thomas B. Modly, the acting secretary of the Navy, said he had lost confidence in Crozier’s ability to command the ship effectively as it dealt with the evolving crisis after Crozier sent the letter on an unclassified email system to 20 to 30 people.
Sending such a letter, Modly said, caused unnecessary alarm about the operational readiness of the ship and undermined the chain of command. “In sending it out pretty broadly, he did not take care to ensure that it couldn’t be leaked,” Modly said. “And that’s part of his responsibility.”
The controversial firing was capped Friday with a dramatic sendoff given by hundreds of sailors as Crozier disembarked from the ship for the last time.
Watch this video of the send off of Captain Crozier, commander of the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt who was fired yesterday for sounding the alarm to protect his sailors. Tells you everything you need to know about the type of #leader he is. pic.twitter.com/z9q3pTJpgZ— Amber Smith (@AmberSmithUSA) April 3, 2020
Video showed a crowded deck as the carrier was at Guam - where infected and quarantined individuals have been removed to the naval base - chanting Crozier's name in an emotional show of support as the now former carrier commander waved goodbye.