- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt won’t face retaliation after an impassioned memo he wrote about the safety of his crew following a coronavirus outbreak was leaked to the press.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the warnings Capt. Brett Crozier raised about the health of his crew went through the proper channels.

“This is what we want our commanding officers to be able to do,” Mr. Modley told reporters at the Pentagon. “We want that information to flow up through the chain of command.”

The USS Roosevelt’s saga, in which the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was forced into port in Guam the coronavirus broke out among the crew, has come to symbolize the strains the Pentagon is facing keeping up operations in the face of the rampaging global pandemic.

In his memo, first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle, Capt. Crozier called for his entire crew to be quarantined, telling his superiors, “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset, our sailors.”

Mr. Modly said his chief of staff spoke with Capt. Crozier before the memo was leaked. It was made clear that if he wasn’t getting support from the chain-of-command, he had a direct line to the Secretary of the Navy’s office.

Capt. Crozier recommended leaving a skeleton crew of only about 10% of the 4,800 total aboard to keep critical functions running, such as the carrier’s nuclear reactors. The remaining would be taken off the ship and cared for.

The concerns Capt. Crozier raised were already being addressed when his memo was leaked to the press. Mr. Modly said he didn’t know who was responsible.

“I don’t know who leaked the letter to the media. That would be something that would violate the principles of good order and discipline,” he said. “I think there are some timing issues related to when that letter was sent [and] when it finally made its way out into the media.”

In his memo, Capt. Crozier said the Navy was failing his sailors if it didn’t act immediately to get them off the ship and keep them safe.

“It’s disappointing to have him say that. However, at the same time I know that’s not the truth,” Mr. Modly said. “We have been working very, very hard with the ship [and] with the command structure to ensure that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of Naval operations, declined to say how long the USS Theodore Roosevelt could be out of action as the crew cleans the ship while respecting protocols against further infection.

“You can’t execute those missions operationally unless you have healthy crews,” Adm. Gilday said.

There might have been a breakdown in communications between the ship and the commanders back on land.

More than 90 personnel aboard the carrier has tested positive for COVID-19, with 86 exhibiting some kind of symptoms. About 24% of the crew have been tested, officials said.

About 94 U.S. Navy ships are deployed at any one time and the USS Theodore Roosevelt is the only one with active coronavirus cases on board, Navy officials said.

“None of them are seriously ill and not one of them has been hospitalized to date,” Mr. Modly said.

Navy officials said they accelerated the testing of the crew and are in the process of giving the massive aircraft carrier a complete scrub down.

“We are providing the commanding officer what he has requested and we are doing our best to accelerate the pace wherever we can,” Mr. Modly said.

The cause of the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt remains a mystery. It has previously made a port visit in Vietnam, where the World Health Organization has identified less than 20 COVID-19 cases throughout the country.

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, Surgeon General of the Navy, said he’s been in contact with senior medical officers at each level of the Theodore Roosevelt.

“We will continue to monitor their condition,” Adm. Gillingham said of the carrier’s crew. “We believe their relative health and youth is in their favor.”

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