The ousted captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt will be 'reassigned' and could face 'disciplinary action', according to his bosses, despite the US Navy facing a huge backlash over his firing and him receiving thunderous applause from his former crew.
Investigators are considering whether Captain Brett Crozier should face disciplinary action after his letter demanding his crew be quarantined over a coronavirus outbreak was leaked to the media, Acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has said.
Modly also said the Navy has no plans to suspend operations over the pandemic, which has killed more than 7,000 Americans, despite more than 250 active members of the Navy being struck down with the virus.
Crozier was turfed off the Roosevelt on Thursday over the leaked letter, with the Navy claiming he had put the crew 'at risk' because America's enemies might think the aircraft carrier was 'crippled'.
The Navy has come under fire for the move and videos have emerged of the captain's crew giving him a raucous farewell cheering and chanting his name as he was ordered off the warship.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly (left) said on Friday that Captain Brett Crozier (right) will be 'reassigned' and could face 'disciplinary action' after his letter demanding his crew be quarantined over a coronavirus outbreak was leaked to the media
An online petition calling for him to be reinstated had reached more than 120,000 signatures by Friday.
Modly is standing by his decision and has now said Crozier will be 'reassigned' while the Navy decides what further action to take on the matter.
Crozier will not be sacked from the Navy but will be given a chance at 'redemption', Modly told Reuters Friday.
'He'll get reassigned, he's not thrown out of the Navy,' Modly said.
An internal probe will be launched into issues around 'communications' and the chain of command that led to the incident to decide if Crozier should face disciplinary action over the letter, he confirmed.
Modly insisted he only wants the 'facts' and would not sway the investigation.
Crozier's letter demanded that the Navy evacuate the USS Theodore Roosevelt after several soldiers became infected with coronavirus. The ship, which was deployed to the Pacific Ocean, was forced to divert to Guam, where it docked earlier this week. The ship is seen above at Naval Base Guam in Sumay on Friday
'I'm not going to direct them to do anything [other] than to investigate the facts to the best of their ability. I cannot exercise undue command influence over that investigation,' he said.
Modly had previously said Crozier would 'absolutely not' face retaliation for writing the letter - unless officials found that he was the one who leaked it.
'The fact that he wrote the letter up to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation,' Modly told reporters on Wednesday.
Asked repeatedly about how the letter came to light publicly, he said: 'I don't know who leaked the letter to the media.
'That would be something that would violate the principles of good order and discipline, if he [Crozier] were responsible for that. But I don't know that.'
Modly also said Friday that he will not be pausing operations on board ships to stop the spread of coronavirus among service men and women, despite at least 250 active members of the Navy testing positive for the killer virus and Crozier's cries for help over an outbreak on board the Roosevelt.
'Generally speaking, we have to keep these ships ready just in case they're needed,' Modly said.
He added that the news had been 'extremely well received when it was explained' to the crew.
However, a crew member on board the Roosevelt cast doubt on Modly's assertion.
'With them firing our (commanding officer) it feels like they are saying they don't care about us,' they told Reuters Friday.
This comes as Crozier was given thunderous applause from his now-former crew as he left the aircraft carrier for the last time after being fired.
The Roosevelt's 5,000-strong crew came out in a show of support for their captain, 'chanting and cheering his name.
Video of the footage shows one sailor saying: 'And that's how you send out one of the greatest captains you ever had.'
A video posted to social media on Thursday shows hundreds of sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt bidding a raucous farewell and saluting their fired commander, Captain Brett Crozier
The sailors chanted 'Captain, Crozier! Captain Crozier' and clapped as he left the ship, which was docked in Guam on Thursday
Crozier is seen above disembarking the ship in Guam for the last time after he was fired over a letter he wrote asking the Navy high command to evacuate the ship due to an outbreak of the coronavirus on board
The decision to fire Crozier has divided the Navy, public and politicians.
Modly, who served in the US Navy as a helicopter pilot before becoming a managing director at consultants PwC, earlier Friday said he was standing by his move, adding that 'loose lips sink ships'.
'One of the first things I learned as a midshipman was this phrase that I think became popular in World War II, which is loose lips sink ships,' he said.
'I had wished that I would never have to make a decision like this, but my responsibilities extend beyond just that individual officer.
'And they go to the safety of that crew, our national security objectives, all the other ships that are out there in the Pacific that are now perhaps on higher standard of alert because our adversaries in the region think that one of our warships might be crippled, which it's not.'
He gained the backing of the Defense Secretary Mark Esper Friday, who 'supported' his decision, and by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
Gen. Milley said if the Navy secretary had lost trust in Crozier 'Then that's it. It's target down and we're moving on to the next task'.
He was also backed by Rear Admiral John Menoni, the region's US Navy commander, who disagreed with Crozier's assertion that all but 10 percent of the ship's crew could be removed from the vessel if necessary.
Modly became acting secretary in November after Richard Spencer was sacked because he wanted to demote and strip shamed Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher of his Trident pin - against President Trump's wishes.
The above image is a handout photo from Wednesday showing medical staff on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt taking a swab sample for COVID-19 testing
Crozier was fired four days after he penned a scathing letter to Navy leaders calling for stronger action to address the COVID-19 outbreak he said was threatening his sailors lives.
Navy sources told Foreign Policy on Friday that Crozier had been given Modly's personal cell phone number on Monday.
The sources claim Modly was encouraged him to 'call us any time day or night' if he had any concerns.
Modly said: 'I just can't have a commanding officer who gets overwhelmed and uses that type of judgment in the middle of a crisis.
'And this is not an indictment of his entire career. He's had an absolutely incredible career. I'm envious of it. He's done some amazing things.
'But at this particular time, I needed a CO there that could help manage us through this crisis. And I just didn't think based on those actions that I could do that.'
Modly said that Crozier 'put the spotlight on the Navy in a negative light when all the things he was asking for we're surging for him.'
The acting secretary said that it was 'sort of most disappointing' to him that the letter from Crozier leaked to the press after he had 'set up a direct line' to the captain.
Crozier should have turned to Modly directly 'if he felt anything wasn't going well and he needed help,' he said, adding: 'And he did not do that.'
But the Navy's claims are being treated with skepticism by at least one parent of a sailor on board the Roosevelt, who told Foreign Policy that hundreds of troops were being quarantined and checked for high temperatures and that the military was not doing enough to keep them safe at the time the letter was sent.
'It felt like a lot of politics to me and not enough action,' the mother of a Roosevelt sailor told Foreign Policy.
'I believe that the Crozier memo expedited the whole thing.'
The mother added: 'When I hear the secretary of the Navy say that [the captain] made a bad judgment call I don't necessarily agree.
Security is put in place to receive between 180 and 500 sailors suspected of having been exposed to coronavirus at several hotels in Guam, including the Sheraton Laguna (pictured above on Friday). Plans are in place to have more sailors from the USS Roosevelt occupy hotel rooms in the coming days
'This was not a man who made bad judgment calls.'
Modly told Hewitt that Crozier should have reported his concerns directly to his immediate superior, Rear Admiral Michael E. Boyle, who assumed command of the Carrier Strike Group Twelve, which includes the USS Roosevelt, last year.
'He instead of going to that particular admiral's cabin and sitting down and talking with him about his concerns and coming up with a strategy with him on how to address them, he decided to send an email and copy that email to a large list of other people who were not in the chain of command, and sent it up also through the chain of command