Fired U.S. navy captain gets hero’s goodbye for raising coronavirus alarm on aircraft carrier

WATCH: Sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt gave a raucous farewell to their captain on April 3, hours after he was removed from command after raising the alarm about COVID-19 cases on the vessel.

“Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!”

U.S. navy Capt. Brett Crozier received a stirring tribute from the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday after he was stripped of his command for publicly raising concerns about a coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier.

Nearly 5,000 sailors flooded the decks to applaud Crozier and chant his name as he left the ship late Thursday in a raucous moment caught on video.

Crozier was relieved of his duties after a memo to superiors that warned of a growing COVID-19 outbreak among his crew was leaked to the public. Crozier had asked for permission to isolate most of his crew members on shore and take the aircraft carrier out of service in order to save lives.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote in the memo, which was published by the San Francisco Chronicle. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset, our sailors.”

Crozier was fired for creating a panic with the memo and demonstrating “extremely poor judgment” during a crisis, according to Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. He said Crozier had allowed “emotion” to affect his judgment and that he should have kept the memo within the chain of command.

“What it does, it undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem and creates a panic and creates the perception that the navy is not on the job, the government is not on the job, and it’s just not true,” Modly said.

“We do, and we should, expect more from the commanding officers of our aircraft carriers,” he said.

As of Thursday, the navy said 31 per cent of the ship’s crew had been tested for the virus while the ship remained docked in Guam. A total of 114 tested positive, while another 180 tested negative.

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The navy has said the ship will keep enough sailors on board to sustain essential services while testing continues.

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“Generally speaking, we have to keep these ships ready just in case they’re needed,” Modly said.

Sailors on the ship have expressed frustration and anger over the loss of their captain.

“Our captain did what he could to protect us and our health,” a sailor on board the carrier told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We are really disappointed in how they handled it and we want our captain back.”

Crozier has not been stripped of his rank. However, an investigation is being launched to consider whether he should face disciplinary action, Modly told Reuters on Friday.

“I’m not going to direct them to do anything (other) than to investigate the facts to the best of their ability. I cannot exercise undue command influence over that investigation,” he said.

“He’ll get reassigned. He’s not thrown out of the navy.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

—With files from The Associated Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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