Roy Exum: Our Embarrassed Navy

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

After a week of turmoil, where Navy Captain Brett Crozier was accused of “panicking” when the coronavirus infected his 5,000-man aircraft carrier and was almost instantly fired, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modley put an exclamation point on the better truth that he’s the one who panicked because he thought that is what President Trump would have wanted.

No, what should have happened was what the top officer in the Navy, Admiral Michael Gilday, suggested; a calm but serious look into the matter as about 150 sailors who have tested positive for the coronavirus were taken off the USS Theodore Roosevelt after it docked in Guam. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper agreed with Gilday, as did General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Instead, Modley countered their common-sense advice by ‘grandstanding’ and fired Crozier two days after the skipper of the ship wrote a desperate plea for help. When Crozier surrendered the bridge on Thursday, the crew loudly saluted him as he walked down the gangway, none knowing the captain was already showing signs of the coronavirus himself. Make no mistake, Modley is who embarrassed the Navy, the nation, and himself thinking it is what Trump would have him do. It is a classic case of in any crisis, save your own self first.

And, brother, has it backfired. Over a quarter-million Americans (yes, 280,000 and counting at 9 p.m. last night) have signed a petition on Change.org to have Crozier reinstated. Newspaper writers on the left and on the right have castigated Modley, who responded in an all-hands speech from the bridge of the ship in Guam yesterday. He mauled Crozier, saying the seasoned captain was “too naive and stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this.”

Modley told the crew that Crozier “betrayed trust with me, with his chain of command, with you, the 800 to 1,000 people who … bust their a--es every day to do what they need to do (for the crew)” before blaming the media. “The media has an agenda and the agenda they have depends on what side of the political aisle they sit. I am sorry that’s the way the country is now, but that’s the truth and so they use it to divide us and use it to embarrass the Navy. They use it to embarrass you.”

Modley, still so naïve and stupid he cannot see he is embarrassing himself, was quick to add, “The American people believe in you and they think of all the people in the world that can keep their (stuff) together in something like this, it’s the United States Navy and our sailors—and they are stressed. They may be stressed, and they may be tired. They may be scared, but they’re keeping their (stuff) together and they are taking care of each other.”

Modley was made Acting Secretary of the Navy four months ago after President Trump fired the former Secretary – Richard V. Spencer – at the request of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. In the fall there was a big huff over former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher and Esper who became infuriated when he claimed Spencer went behind his back to cut a deal with the White House so Gallagher could retire as a SEAL and keep his trident. Gallagher was charged with war crimes and most were dismissed but he was found guilty of posing with an enemy’s corpse and sentenced to “time served.” After the trial Trump allowed Gallagher to retire as a SEAL and keep his trident badge.
Captain Crozier, now in quarantine, is awaiting orders to join Navy administration in San Diego and will keep his rank, but close observers believe the Navy’s rash of punishing officers who speak out will soon silence sailors with sincere concerns.

From the ProPublica website: “This may have the effect of chilling the responses of other commanding officers because it will be perceived, fairly or not, as a shoot the messenger scenario,” said James Stavridis, a retired admiral and former head of the United States Naval Institute, who called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the dismissal.

“In June 2017, after the USS Fitzgerald, a destroyer, collided with a cargo ship in the Sea of Japan, two months later, a second destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, collided with an oil tanker in the Singapore Strait. The two accidents cost the Navy 17 sailors — the biggest loss of life in maritime collisions in more than 40 years.

As a result, this again from ProPublica, “Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the head of the 7th Fleet, was fired. Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden, who oversaw training, was forced from his job. Commander Bryce Benson, captain of the Fitzgerald, was recommended for court-martial." But ProPublica reported that all three men had repeatedly tried to warn higher-ups of dangerous safety issues in the vaunted fleet, based at Yokosuka, Japan. They argued to their superiors that the Navy was running ships in the 7th Fleet too hard, too fast. Their warnings were dismissed.

Benson, the Fitzgerald commander whose court-martial case was dismissed, said that Crozier “was right to strongly advocate for the safety of his crew and it was wrong for the SecNav (secretary of the Navy) to fire him for doing so.”

(Navy) leaders “continue to under-resource ships at sea and are slow to respond to commanders’ pleas for assistance,” said Benson, who is now retired. “From one tragedy to the next, senior Navy leaders continue to break faith with the fleet.”

By yesterday afternoon copies of Modley’s speech to the Roosevelt crew flooded Capitol Hill and left Congress seething. “Based on the transcript I’ve read, Secretary Modley’s comments were completely inappropriate and beneath the office of the Secretary of the Navy," said Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Armed Services Committee.

"It’s deeply disappointing that he would deliver a speech on board a U.S. aircraft carrier suggesting that Captain Crozier might be ‘stupid’ and bashing the media for trying to report the truth,” Kaine said. “These dedicated sailors deserve better from their leadership.”

President Trump, backpedaling after first agreeing with Modley, said he was now going to get involved and applied a softer tact to Crozier. Praising both men, the President said he doesn’t want Captain Crozier’s career to be ruined because of a “bad day. I’ve heard very good things about the gentleman, both gentlemen,” Trump said. “I may just get involved … you have two good people and they’re arguing. And I’m good, believe it or not, at settling arguments.”

From Op-ed News: “Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt is a national hero, as his crew recognized when they cheered uproariously as he left his ship for the last time. Crozier had provoked the Navy to let the crew of 5,000 debark at Guam. Some 100 of them tested positive for the coronavirus, and if they had been forced to remain at sea in close quarters, all of them would have been infected and 50 to 100 would have died. If terrorists threatened to kill 100 sailors on a US destroyer, all of Washington DC would be jumping up and down demanding an extra $1 trillion in counter-terrorism spending. But nobody was willing to do anything about the USS Roosevelt being a floating death trap.”

* * *

OH ME, I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT TONIGHT

The biggest and best super moon of the year will be in Tuesday night’s sky and if the cloud cover breaks in the rain forecast, I promise, it will be a sight to behold. If you go outside, be mindful that you must look up to see it.

Which brings to point, when everything in your life goes wrong, or you find yourself on your death bed, or depression ever reached the stage that all you can do is lie there, never lose sight of the undeniable fact the only way your eyes can see is to look up. Be mindful of what you will see.

You think tonight’s moon is big and bold? You ain’t seen nothing like you’ll see when you think all hope is gone and then you look up. I know. “It’s Tuesday … but Sunday’s a-coming.” Stay strong.

royexum@aol.com


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