I’m not a military guy, so forgive me if I get this wrong, but three cheers for Captain Crozier!
Crozier is the former commanding officer of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, who was relieved of command after he sent a letter seeking to have his crew evacuated following an outbreak of coronavirus on board.
The acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said he removed Crozier because he “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”
Modly also criticized Crozier for deciding “to send an email and copy that email to a large list of other people who were not in the chain of command, and [sending] it up also through the chain of command skipping people in the chain of command.”
Well, the criticism may be deserved, but so too was the applause that Crozier received from his crew when he left his ship to appreciative chants of “CAP-tain CRO-zier! CAP-tain CRO-zier!”
President Trump at first signaled his support for Modly effectively firing Crozier, but over the next few days, the president seemed to realize that he was on the wrong side of the story. How do you fire a beloved naval officer for going the extra mile to protect his crew?
This story was sort of a real-life version of “Mister Roberts,” played out on a giant scale, with Crozier in the role made famous by Henry Fonda, and Modly as the petty martinet played by James Cagney. In the movie, Lt. Roberts protected his crew from the captain’s cruel officiousness and thus earned their love and everlasting gratitude. Crozier too put his crew’s well-being first and has earned a place in American military folklore that is rich with naval heroes.
Adding insult to injury, Modly showed he was totally tone deaf when he addressed the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt and told them that Crozier was either “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer.” Yikes! Know your audience!
A day later Modly had turned in his own resignation. In the meantime, Crozier himself tested positive for coronavirus, a symbol of the fact that this captain was willing to get in the metaphorical trenches with his crew.
What will ultimately happen to Crozier is unknown at this time. President Trump continues to say that Crozier made a mistake, but has also said he thinks Crozier is a good person and that one mistake should not ruin his career or life. Let’s hope so.
At the least, Crozier should be returned to command of his ship. And just maybe he should be considered for that vacant position as permanent Secretary of the Navy. His sailors already know they can trust him with their lives, and what’s more important for a military leader?
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