• Senior Navy officials relieved a commander of an aircraft carrier on Thursday over a loss of confidence, four days after he sent a letter urging for more assistance in dealing with a coronavirus outbreak.
  • During a press conference Thursday, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said that Capt. Brett Crozier’s dismissal was prompted by his circumvention of the chain of command.
  • But Modly’s recent remarks are in conflict with comments he made a day before. On Wednesday, Modly told reporters that Crozier’s act of writing the letter did not meet the bar for a punishment.
  • “The fact that he wrote the letter to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation,” Modly said on Wednesday.
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Senior Navy officials relieved a commander of an aircraft carrier on Thursday over a loss of confidence, four days after he sent a letter urging for more assistance in dealing with a coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship. The four-page letter was eventually leaked to and published in full in the San Francisco Chronicle.

During a Thursday press conference, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Capt. Brett Crozier’s dismissal from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear-powered carrier with about 4,800 service members, was prompted by his violation of military protocols in circumventing the chain of command.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Capt. Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest and well-being of his crew,” Modly said to reporters. “Unfortunately, it did the opposite.”

“We have the proper way of handling this,” Modly said. “What he did by doing this and not being careful with who that information went to … that’s just not acceptable. He did not take care.”

Modly said Crozier’s letter “created a little bit of a panic on the ship” and did not allow the USS Theodore Roosevelt or the Navy to adequately respond to the fallout “in terms of how bad the situation was.”

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Foto: The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Source: REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anna Van Nuys/Handout

Modly said his staff was in constant contact with Crozier “a day before he even sent that email” and that equipment was “flowing into theater.”

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“It misrepresented the facts of what was going on on the ship as well,” Modly said. “And at the same time, the families here in the United States were panicked about the reality.”

But Modly’s recent remarks are in conflict with comments he made one day prior. On Wednesday, Modly told reporters that Crozier’s act of writing the letter did not meet the bar for a punishment.

“The fact that he wrote the letter to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation,” Modly said on Wednesday.

“He submitted this letter through his chain of command,” Modly added. “How it got out into the media, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone will ever know. We certainly would prefer that it wouldn’t.”

It is unclear who the recipients of the letter were; however, Modly told reporters on Thursday it may have been “copied to 20 or 30 other people.”

“I do know he did not safeguard that information to keep it from being leaked anywhere,” he said.

While Modly continued to say that he had “no information” on how it was leaked, he added that if Crozier submitted the letter to the media, it would “violate the principles of good order and discipline.”

Crozier is a native of Santa Rosa, California, and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1992.

After the publication of Crozier’s letter, sailors were rotated off the ship in Guam. About 2,700 of them are expected to be taken off the ship in the coming days, with many headed for isolation in nearby hotels. About 114 sailors tested positive for the coronavirus as of Thursday.

“The letter worked,” a sailor aboard the ship told the Chronicle.