U.S. Navy aircraft carriers live by the phrase “complacency kills.”
There are so many different ways to die aboard an aircraft carrier, it should be the setting for a Final Destination film. Rotors, props, engines, exhausts, wires, wheels, catapults, and Davy Jones’ locker all pose a constant threat to the sailor and Marine upon the world’s most dangerous 4.5 acres. Except none of these things kills without the assistance of ones’ own negligence and complacency.
While operation security is crucial, and will be the technicality the Navy uses to justify its removal of Capt. Brett Crozier, its subtle but true reason is found within the content of his letter rather than just his careless means of distributing it. Crozier’s words revealed a cultural sense of complacency incongruent with the standards of the U.S. Armed Forces, and is why I believe the Department of the Navy ultimately removed him from command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
In his letter requesting assistance for the TR, Crozier demonstrated an affinity for safety over a dedication to duty. He claims that not a single sailor should perish because of the virus, references not being at war or being “at peace” five separate times, and for an entire page compares his $5 billion, nuclear-powered warship of the world’s finest Navy to a luxury cruise liner.
This letter came just weeks after authorizing a port call to a major city in Vietnam (China’s neighbor), one month after Chinese air incursions near our ally of Taiwan, and two months after nearly going to war with Iran. These words and actions demonstrate poor judgment and a mindset of complacency, which has no place commanding one of only ten American aircraft carriers, especially the only one forward-deployed in the 7th Fleet.
Now, Crozier has COVID-19, just as he would have had he not announced to our enemies that the Roosevelt has an outbreak. Except now, the only aircraft carrier capable of supporting the fleet with more ships than the other five fleets combined, the only aircraft carrier capable of supporting operations against China, Russia, or North Korea should something occur, is sidelined near Guam, with no comparable relief for 6,000 miles in any direction. The Theodore Roosevelt was truly the tip of the spear, which is now blunted, with American national security at greater risk because of it.
Anyone who thinks the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior leadership don’t care about the lives and welfare of our sailors and Marines is a fool. Of course they do, but they also care about accomplishing the mission, which will and should always come first.
The most troubling thing of all of this is found in the video of Crozier’s departure from the ship, cheered on by hundreds of its crewmen. These sailors cheer him because they believe he was looking out for their welfare, and find that to be noble.
However, it’s also ignorant of their purpose, which is to protect and defend the United States by maintaining a combat-ready aircraft carrier in the 7th Fleet. This mission is no longer being fulfilled, placing American lives and interests in jeopardy, and contributing a greater propensity to spread the virus as thousands of potential cases are now docked instead of maintaining social distance.
Each and every sailor on that ship initialed the line in his papers that said he is willing to endure injury and possibly death from the requirements of his service. This cheering indicates a lack of that willingness to sacrifice for mission accomplishment and musters the question that if these sailors aren’t willing to fulfill this duty in the face of an invisible enemy, what makes anyone think they will do so in the face of a combatant one?
A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier hasn’t been sunk by enemy combatants since World War II, which naturally invites a sense of invincibility. Except there are no exceptions in the aforementioned pledge, and they should be expected to uphold it if necessary, regardless whether its fulfillment comes at the hands of missile or molecule. Crozier should have assumed that everyone on the ship was already compromised, and the USS Theodore Roosevelt should have remained at sea, maintaining combat readiness, until relieved.
Would that be a tough decision? Absolutely. Would there be anomalies who died, which he would have to live with every day of his life? Yes. But the U.S. military doesn’t appoint men and women to positions of responsibility who are incapable of making difficult decisions during hard times.
Part of service is sacrifice. If you are unwilling to make sacrifices, including utilitarian ones, then you are unfit to serve, and certainly unfit to lead. Simple as that.
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly was dead-on in his statement that while America is not at war, it is neither truly at peace either. Crozier’s failure to recognize this and skipper accordingly is of itself justifiable reason to remove him from command and take a deeper look at the necessary eradication of complacent “peacetime” attitudes amongst many in the Armed Services.