Dismissal of Brett Crozier Nuanced Issue

Dismissal of Brett Crozier Nuanced Issue

Dismissal of Brett Crozier Nuanced Issue

Brett Crozier has a resume that reads like a military rock star. He’s a Naval Academy grad and a Naval aviator with several deployments under his belt. A few days ago, however, he was removed from his post as Commander of USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the reactions from both sides of the political aisle range from deifying to denigrating.

I would submit that the issue isn’t as simple as the man’s politics, but predictably, the political aisles are filled with partisan opinions of the man. What I’d like to do here is present all sides to show that partisan bickering over Brett Crozier’s dismissal is wholly inappropriate here.

The Letter

The letter, according to the Secretary of the Navy, revealed no classified information. The information contained in it about the readiness of the crew and ship is definitely sensitive, which gives the national security professional in me a bit of a shudder. The letter contained information that in and of itself isn’t classified, but when combined with other open source reports could paint a picture of a weakened ship for our adversaries, despite it being peacetime.

Inadequate quarantine capability, infected sailors, and detailed limitations of the Roosevelt were all revealed in the letter.

Based on data since first case, approximately 21% of the Sailors that tested negative and are currently moving into group restricted movement ashore are currently infected, will develop over the next several days, and will proceed to infect the remainder of their shore-based restricted group.

[…]

With the exceptions of a handful of senior officer staterooms, none of the berthing onboard a warship is appropriate for quarantine or isolation. Thousands of “close contact” Sailors require quarantine in accordance with guidance. TR has begun to move personnel off ship into shore-based group restricted movement locations. Of the off ship locations currently available, only one complies with the NAVADMIN guidance. Infected Sailors reside in these off ship locations. Two Sailors have already tested positive in an open bay gymnasium equipped with cots. Although marginally better than a warship, group quarantine sites are not a solution and are not in accordance with current guidance.

The missive applied lessons learned from the Diamond Princess about challenges of fighting a highly transmissible disease on board and made it clear that Brett Crozier felt that the problem was not being addressed quickly enough, urging decisive action to comply with the CDC and Naval guidance and prevent “tragic outcomes. ”

The Navy’s reaction.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told the media that the command was aware of the issues and was working to resolve them.

“I heard about the letter from Capt. Crozier (Tuesday) morning, I know that our command organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours and we have been working actually the last seven days to move those sailors off the ship and get them into accommodations in Guam. The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now and we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities,” Modly said.

Modly rightly stated that the lessons learned from the Diamond Princess are limited in this case, because a cruise ship is vastly different from a naval ship that has armaments and aircraft on it. Former SACEUR James Stavridis added that “we should expect more such incidents because warships are a perfect breeding ground for coronavirus.”

The national security wonk in me is also cringing at the reactions from others to the letter. Stavridis bluntly said more incidents such as this are expected, while Mark Cancian, a retired Marine colonel with 37 years of service under his belt, said that “the Navy has got to figure out how to do this right or else they can’t deploy the rest of the fleet.”

The reactions are almost worse than the letter itself!

Partisan reactions.

Predictably, both sides of the political aisle are using this incident to their own ends. Democrats are already calling for an investigation into Crozier’s removal. Meanwhile, Russia’s propaganda tool RT is reporting that Brett Crozier is the left’s latest “Resistance Icon.”

Unhinged anti-Trump CNN nutjob Ana Navarro immediately tweeted her anti-Trump outrage at putting Brett Crozier’s “ass out,” even though Trump publicly said he would allow the military to handle the issue and acting Navy Secretary Modly publicly stated the decision to remove Brett Crozier from command was his and his alone, with the support of the Secretary of Defense.

Fact is Brett Crozier was not removed for protecting his sailors. He was removed because he sent out sensitive information via unclassified email and copied a whole lot of others who then leaked the letter to the press.

Yes, he should have known that the media would get a hold of this letter. Another anonymous source is leaking the numbers of sailors testing positive for COVID-19 to the media, and I have to question whether the public – other than maybe family members authorized by the infected sailors themselves – has the right to know, in this case. Although, I don’t see this as a HIPAA violation, since individual health information is not being leaked… yet, this is a sensitive issue, and Brett Crozier should have known the media and the politicians would use this for their own partisan goals.

Some current and former service members hail Crozier as a hero, while others… not so much.

I’ve seen diverse reactions from diverse service members and veterans to Crozier’s dismissal.

One friend of mine, a former Marine, whose identity will remain private, thinks Brett Crozier’s motives were political.

I think this guy was out to either embarrass his chain, who are likely a lot of Obummer hold-overs since THAT fuck, particularly at the flag officer level, made sure to run out every genuine warfighter he could find. OR, he IS an obama guy, since the flag officers made sure to purge warfighters under them and he wanted to embarass trump. I don’t think the fuck gave two real shits about his men, since the problem was being worked.

Another friend, a Navy veteran appreciates Brett Crozier’s willingness to go to the mat for his guys – something we don’t see very often, as officers become more concerned about their own advancement in a political climate. And although, the issue was being worked, as my other friend pointed out, it was quite obvious that it was not being worked quickly or efficiently enough.

I can see why Captain Crozier was relieved, but that doesn’t mean I agree with his dismissal. The Roosevelt was already compromised as a forward-deployed asset, so I think Crozier was trying to mitigate damage to Navy personnel and combat readiness. And I also think that the higher-ups at the Pentagon were dragging their feet on this one.

On a personal note, it’s refreshing to see a skipper stand up for his crew. I’ve known way too many COs who’d sacrifice half their crew to score a few good bullet points on their next fitrep.

Comments on a Navy subreddit page are also overwhelmingly positive about Brett Crozier, lauding him for putting his sailors first.

It is quite clear, from the video of his departure, that Crozier’s sailors will crawl through broken glass for him. I have personally seen officers who denigrate their troops and focus on their own advancement, rather than their personnel. I’ve seen officers denigrate enlisted personnel because of their (incorrect) perception that they’re somehow less educated and less intelligent than they are. I’ve seen officers tear to the front of the line ahead of their troops to get food and equipment and being told by senior NCOs to get their worthless, entitled tails to the back.

National Security expert Jim Hanson explains that it’s not an either/or situation while retweeting Kurt Schlichter.

Fact is the crew of the Roosevelt needed help, but Brett Crozier should have known his letter would leak to the media and be exploited by our adversaries. I will also correct Schlicter’s tweet. Crozier never said the Roosevelt wasn’t mission capable. In fact, he specifically stated in his letter that the Roosevelt would embark every sailor, deploy, and kick the ass of any adversary if SHTF.

“However, we are not at war,” Crozier wrote, “and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily.”

One thing is quite clear from this event: the departure of Brett Crozier is much more nuanced than some partisans would have you believe. I would be curious about former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ take on this issues and curious how the legendary Marine Corps General would have handled this situation. I would trust Jim Mattis’ take over any partisan commentator’s.

Here’s the thing, though. Ultimately, in order to be successful as a leader – both in the military and elsewhere – you have to command the respect and trust of those you lead. As Mattis wrote in his book, “Your peers are the first to know what you will stand for and, more important, what you won’t stand for. State your rules, and stick to them. As an officer you need to win a basic battle: for the hearts of your troops. Win their hearts, and they will win the battles.

Brett Crozier seems to have succeeded at that, despite the partisan wrangling.

 

Featured photo: Navy Live; (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Brown/Released)

Written by

Marta Hernandez is an immigrant, writer, editor, science fiction fan (especially military sci-fi), and a lover of freedom, her children, her husband and her pets. She loves to shoot, and range time is sacred, as is her hiking obsession, especially if we’re talking the European Alps. She is an avid caffeine and TWD addict, and wants to own otters, sloths, wallabies, koalas, and wombats when she grows up.

4 Comments
  • The job of an officer is simple – and the simplest things are the hardest to do.

    If you are given an order that is illegal, IN YOUR JUDGEMENT, you disobey it.

    If you are given a legal order that is inadvisable, IN YOUR JUDGEMENT, and your superior will not modify or rescind it, you jump the chain of command.

    EITHER WAY, be prepared to justify your action in front of a court martial, or, at the least, be removed from your command.

    IN NO CASE WHATSOEVER do you “appeal to the masses.” The only voice that civilians legitimately have in the matter of operations is the selection or removal of the Commander in Chief. (Civilian control, through the Senate, of who may be added, but not removed, as the Commander in Chief’s top subordinates, is not operational control.)

    This applies whether the person in command is correct, or not. Truman was right to remove MacArthur, even though the General was absolutely correct in what should have been done in Korea. Whether Captain Crozier is correct or not, he cannot continue in command.

    (No, this does not result in a military that is even close to “perfect.” It just results in one that WORKS.)

    • MrsP says:

      “Yes, he should have known that the media would get a hold of this letter.”

      Although the media initially reported that he had sent the e mail to 20-30 people he sent it to ten.
      The email was addressed to: Rear Adm. Stuart Baker (commander of the carrier strike group of which the USS Theodore Roosevelt is a component and Crozier’s immediate commanding officer).
      Also Adm. John Aquilino, the commander of US Pacific Fleet; and Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, another senior officer in the Pacific responsible for overseeing Naval Air Forces.
      Also copied to seven Navy captains, all of whom were either serving aboard the aircraft carrier or working as aides to the admirals addressed in the email.
      Who of those people should Crozier have expected a media leak?

      I don’t know anything whatsoever about the systems they send such things on from ships. I do know that he and the Chief of Staff (Love) exchanged e mails to discuss the situation, so it would seem Crozier corresponded with the Chief of staff of the Navy on the subject, that way also.

      “IN NO CASE WHATSOEVER do you “appeal to the masses.”

      Agreed. I have seen no “appeal to the masses” from Captain Crozier whatsoever. What has happened is a bunch of folks on both sides, armed with nothing but partial information and media driven monumental ignorance, have launched their own information campaign. Has Crozier made a single public statement to this day? I haven’t seen any.

  • GWB says:

    Based on data since first case, approximately 21% of the Sailors that tested negative and are currently moving into group restricted movement ashore are currently infected, will develop over the next several days, and will proceed to infect the remainder of their shore-based restricted group.
    Huh? That sentence is NOT easily diagrammed.

    warships are a perfect breeding ground for coronavirus
    Well, yes. But they are also perfect places to quarantine and prevent the virus from infecting. But once it’s onboard, it’s difficult to prevent its spread.
    OTOH, ships have procedures for dealing with chemical and biological contaminants from a NBC attack. Should we revisit those to be more effective?

    And yes, a warship is different from a cruise ship (even Building 20 – inside joke). But they’re similar enough that I think some things could be done to secure from a pandemic. But, that’s one of those murky areas, and would rely on the medical staff having the requisite knowledge, and the ship having the necessary resources.

    we should expect more such incidents because…
    Uh, no, we damn well better not. Because you should have shut down ALL port calls the moment the President cut off flights from China, at the very least.

    blowing whistle
    You keep using that phrase. I don’t think that phrase means what you think it means.

    and copied a whole lot of others
    IOW, he raised a stink.

    I have to question whether the public… has the right to know, in this case
    Well, I got the notice a week ago that numbers would no longer be reported publicly – for OPSEC reasons.

    I have personally seen…
    Yes, and plenty of problems in other ranks, as well. Humans, can’t live with them, can’t fight a war without them (for now).

    Two things can both be true
    Yes. And so many don’t (or won’t) get this.

    I’m waiting to see what else might come out. But I’ve already had to defend the military’s top brass to someone who asked “What do you think about…?” I gave them basically the same two-sided presentation you did, Marta.

    One last thought: while being removed from command is a career-killer, he might still stay in a while. It depends on what the Navy does with him. He might even be instrumental somewhere, if they pick the right “make work” job for him. I do hope Honor wins out here.

  • William Burnam says:

    SIDE NOTE: As you mentioned General Mattis, I’m genuinely curious about why Mad Dog and his current accomplice Kelly were so silent when watching General Flynn get crucified for THREE YEARS, and yet no all of a sudden they’re both so chatty about other criticisms of this President? Their silence is deafening. Not to mention they are treading into UCMJ territory with latest comments. The code violation can be verified for you if you need it.
    Thank you for ALL of your terrific articles!
    All the Best.

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