The leadership chasm for the U.S. Navy continued to widen on Monday, as U.S. President Donald J. Trump said he would get involved over the dismissal of USS Theodore Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier.
“I don’t want to destroy somebody for having a bad day,” the president said during the press conference on Monday.
The president stepped in to try to end the controversy, where one side has applauded Crozier for trying to protect his crew while others have sided with the chain of command question at stake and the danger of having leaked a memo that showed the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was in distress.
Crozier was relieved of command by Acting US Navy Secretary Modly, who then traveled to Guam and spoke to the crew over the ship’s loudspeaker where he defamed Captain Crozier, and President Trump later had to comment on those “tough words.”
The president’s reflection on the disagreement was simply that Crozier had been an exemplary Navy man and the leaked letter should not mean the end of his good reputation.
“We have the strongest military we’ve ever had, and we’re not going to be showing weakness to anybody because we have,” President Trump said. “That ship is incredible, nuclear powered aircraft carrier. And we don’t want to be doing writing letters. We don’t want to have letter writing campaigns where the fake news finds a letter or gets a leak. We don’t want that. So the letter, excuse me, so the letter shouldn’t have been sent.”
“With all of that said his career prior to that was very good. So I’m going to get involved and see exactly what’s going on there because I don’t want to destroy somebody for having a bad day.”
What was eye opening was that the president was not just trying to put out a fire, but pulled the file on the captain and pointed to a long career of success in the Navy.
“The only thing that has played right up here with me is that I looked at his record and he’s been an outstanding person. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t even be talking about this. He’s been an outstanding person. He’s had a very exemplary military career.”
“I mean, he started off as a helicopter pilot. They called him Chopper. His name was Chopper. He was a great helicopter pilot. It’s a tremendous skill. I know a lot about helicopters. And then he went F-16s or F-18s and he was a tremendous pilot.”
And then he’s very smart. He studied nuclear energy and he was fantastic, and very few people have the aptitude, they have the mentality to do that. Nuclear energy is very complex. It’s very hard. Very few people can do it. And he did it well, and then it became the captain of a nuclear ship, right, replacement cost, if you look at replacement cost, $18 billion are replacement costs, right? So he’s got, on a replacement cost basis, an $18 billion ship. You know the President Gerald Ford, very expensive, that’s the nearest thing I can think of, but they’re spending money on that one like nobody’s ever seen. So he made a mistake. He made a mistake, and maybe we’re going to make that mistake, not destroy his life.”
But while speaking to the crew, Acting Navy Secretary Modly said, “If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this.”
When questioned by reporters about his statement Modly stood firm: “I stand by every word I said, even, regrettably any profanity that may have been used for emphasis.”
But on Monday evening, the tide had turned, and Modly apologized:
“Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid,” Modly said in a written statement. “Captain Crozier is smart and passionate. We pick our carrier commanding officers with great care. I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship. I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused.”