Capt. Brett Crozier was cheered by his crew as he left the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday after being relieved of duty.

Crozier was fired by Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly after a letter to Navy leaders warning of an escalating outbreak of coronavirus aboard the San Diego-based carrier was leaked to the press.

Videos shared on social media showed hundreds of crew members gathered on the carrier’s hanger deck and chanting “Capt. Crozier.”

Crozier’s letter, which was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, warned the Navy that virus infections would spiral out of control unless the crew was moved to shore quarters on Guam, where the carrier docked last week.

Navy Capt. Brett E. Crozier, commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, based in San Diego.
Capt. Brett Crozier

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors,” he wrote.

Modly said Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily” and “demonstrated extremely poor judgment in the middle of a crisis.”

The secretary told conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt on Friday that the decision to fire Crozier was the hardest he had ever made.

“I know that he loves this crew. I know that the crew loves and respects him. But that’s not an excuse for exercising the judgment that he did,” Modly told Hewitt.

The Navy had moved some 1,000 sailors off the ship and into hotel rooms by Thursday, and was working to move another 2,700 by Friday.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.