SAN DIEGO — With a traditional Navy pipe and the ringing of four bells, the quarterdeck watch stander on board the San Diego-based carrier Theodore Roosevelt announced his captain's final departure according to Navy standards: "Captain, United States Navy, departing."
Capt. Brett Crozier, hours after the acting Navy secretary announced his firing from behind a Pentagon podium, made his way through a solemn, silent mass of sailors in the hangar bay of the ship, videos posted to social media show.
Once the captain reached the brow, his crew erupts in cheers and begins chanting his name.
"Captain Crozier!" they chant. "Captain Crozier!"
One unidentified sailor is heard saying Crozier is the "GOAT," short for "greatest of all time."
"Now that's how you send off one of the greatest captains you ever had," the sailor says. "The GOAT, the man for the people."
In another video, Crozier walks down the brow, turns and waves once to his cheering crew.
The Roosevelt is in port in Guam fighting an outbreak of COVID-19 among its crew. On Sunday, Crozier sent a letter to the commander of the Pacific Fleet asking that the Navy evacuate 90% of its crew, writing "We are not at war, and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily."
The letter became public Tuesday when it was first published first by the San Francisco Chronicle.
On Wednesday, Thomas Modly, the acting Navy secretary, said the Navy was moving to do much of what Crozier asked in the letter, including a plan to move almost 3,000 sailors off the ship within days.
Then on Thursday, Modly announced he removed Crozier from command, saying that the wide dissemination of the letter — via "20 to 30" people on an email — was a reflection of the captain's "extremely poor judgment" in the middle of a crisis.
"It was copied to 20 or 30 other people," Modly said. "That's just not acceptable. He sent it out pretty broadly and in sending it out pretty broadly he did not take care to ensure that it couldn't be leaked."
Modly said more than 100 sailors on board the ship have so far tested positive for COVID-19 with likely "hundreds" more to come.