Americans are learning how difficult it is to live in this bizarre Covid-inspired existence of self-distancing and working from home (if you’re lucky) or not working at all. As challenging and frustrating as this is for most Americans, it is infinitely more problematic for those serving in our Armed Forces.
Our servicemembers are just as susceptible to the virus as the rest of us.
But while we get to sit at home, binging on pizza and Netflix's "The Tiger King," the troops have no such options.
Our military remains duty-bound to defend our country at home — and abroad.
Maintaining global military readiness is an enormous strategic and logistical challenge.
It's a 24/7/365 mission. It literally never stops.
Now add to that the realities of the Corona virus. How do you exercise social distancing inside the turret of an M1 tank? Or in an aircraft’s cockpit? A submarine?
Or, as in this case, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt?
The answer is that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
With these ongoing operational challenges, enter Captain Crozier, commander of the USS Roosevelt. He was rightfully concerned about the health and welfare of the 5000 men and women under his command. Hundreds reportedly were sick with Corona, while dozens of others displayed symptoms.
He needed the support and assistance above his pay grade to get them off the ship before things got worse.
The thing is, Crozier was getting that help.
According to Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, the chain-of-command was fully aware of the situation and was in the process of identifying enough hotel rooms on Guam that met the isolation and quarantining requirements necessary to move some 2700 sailors off of the ship and into a safe environment.
Clearly, that’s going to take a little time to arrange, but Modly confirmed it was on track to happen in a matter of days.
Despite this, Capt. Crozier sent an open letter to dozens of recipients through unclassified channels. Not surprisingly, it promptly landed on the front pages of the San Francisco Chronicle.Whether he intended it for media publication or not, Capt. Crozier made an egregious error by going public with his concerns.
There are obvious reasons for this.
We’re not talking about some COVID-infected cruise ship in search of a friendly port.
The USS Roosevelt is a Nimitz Class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the most lethal in history. These carriers, wonders of engineering and weaponry, are a major component of America’s ability to project power.
Any discussion of a carrier's operational status is by nature classified.
Beyond national security, hearing through the rumor-mill that corona sickness and death were racing through our military ships had to have been devastating for the families and friends of the deployed sailors. And not just on the Roosevelt either; countless families were likely left to needlessly wonder and worry about the fate of their deployed loved ones as well.
In Modly’s words, "Because of what it's done, it's has created a firestorm. It created doubts about the ship's ability to go to sea if it needs to. It's created doubt among the families, about the health of their sailors." Secretary Modly added, "That was a completely unnecessary thing to do in the midst of a crisis."
As bad as this single occurrence was, imagine if other military commanders had parroted Capt. Crozier’s public actions. In the military chaos, accidents, and death appear when the chain-of-command is ignored.
The media has made much of how Captain Crozier’s crew cheered him when he departed the ship. Some see him as being punished for looking out for their wellbeing. In reality, the most effective way to ensure their safety was through the chain of command.
All the media will do — is doing — with this story is wring it out for its political value, namely to bludgeon the Trump administration. The media will then discard it for whatever manufactured scandal comes next.
As commander of the USS Roosevelt, Captain Crozier had the responsibility to raise the alarm about how COVID-19 was impacting his crew. However, he was completely wrong to do so publicly. Not only did it create panic throughout the ranks, and families of service members, it was a breach of security. The bottom line is that he displayed extremely poor judgement, which left the Navy no choice but to relieve him of his command.
Patrick Murray (colonel, U.S. Army, retired) was part of a military-diplomatic exchange program between the Pentagon and Department of State, where he served in the Bureau of Political Military Affairs in Washington, D.C. In 2005, Murray became the U.S. representative to the Military Staff Committee at the United Nations in New York under Ambassador John Bolton. After retiring from the Army in 2009, Patrick became the Republican nominee for U.S. Congress in Northern Virginia. He is the author of "Government is the Problem." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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