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In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) leaves its San Diego homeport in 2020.

In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) leaves its San Diego homeport in 2020. (U.S. Navy)

SAN DIEGO (Tribune News Service) — The former captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt — fired from command after sounding the alarm on an out-of-control coronavirus outbreak on board in 2020 — will retire from the Navy next month, the Navy Times newspaper reported Monday.

Captain Brett Crozier, a 30-year-Navy veteran, was removed from command of the Roosevelt — based in San Diego at the time — following the leak of a letter he wrote to Pacific Fleet commanders in which he implored the Navy to do more to protect the crew as dozens of sailors began testing positive for COVID-19. The ship was just a couple of months into a scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific when the outbreak began. It was sidelined in Guam but sailors were still living in close quarters on board as the virus spread unabated.

Immediately after Crozier's letter was made public, the Navy announced thousands of sailors would move off the ship. The next day, Crozier was fired from command.

Video of Crozier's departure from the ship showed hundreds of sailors cheering their captain and chanting his name. Shortly after those videos went viral, the acting secretary of the Navy at the time, Thomas Modly, visited the ship and blasted Crozier over its public address system.

Audio of Modly's profane 15-minute speech also leaked. The acting secretary first apologized, then resigned.

Crozier was initially reassigned to a staff position at Naval Air Forces in San Diego. Crozier later told investigators he understood the risk to his career he took in writing the letter but did so to avoid a "larger catastrophe."

The Roosevelt remained in Guam for two months before finishing its deployment and returning to San Diego. One Roosevelt sailor, Chief Petty Officer Thomas Thacker, died of the virus. He was the first of 92 service members — 17 of them sailors — to die from the virus throughout the pandemic.

Crozier is currently assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 154 in Lemoore, Calif. He flew his last flight in an F/A-18F Super Hornet on Feb. 2, Navy Times reported.

The Roosevelt left San Diego in July to begin an 18-month retrofit in Bremerton, Wash.

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©2022 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Daniel Betancourt is a reporter, photographer, videographer and web editor at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. He joined the Marine Corps in 2014 and has been assigned to Stars and Stripes since 2020.
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