Navy officials are denying any nefarious motives behind the recent removal of the nameplate on a past commanders plaque for Capt. Brett Crozier, a former leader of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt fired this spring during an onboard COVID-19 outbreak.
Big Navy pushback came after TR sailors and spouses expressed online outrage after a photo of the plaque with Crozier’s name removed was shared on social media this week.
Crozier’s nameplate was removed because the plaque is in the process of being updated to reflect his time at the helm and the arrival of current CO Capt. Eric Anduze, who took command this summer, said Lt. Cmdr. Jacqueline Pau, spokeswoman for the TR.
“The ship is in the process of updating our past and present CO’s nameplates on the ceremonial quarterdeck,” she said in an email. “Capt. Crozier’s nameplate will reflect the correct dates he served as commanding officer.”
Pau provided Navy Times with photos Wednesday showing that Crozier’s photo still hangs alongside those of past TR commanders as proof that Crozier’s name wasn’t removed from the plaque out of some petty vendetta.
“We honor all of our current and past CO’s in multiple places throughout the ship," Pau said.
Still, the outrage this week over any potential disrespecting of Crozier showcases how the fired skipper remains a sensitive subject for many in the TR community.
He was relieved on April 2 after his ship suffered a COVID-19 outbreak that eventually infected a quarter of the sailors onboard and forced a months-long emergency port call in Guam.
Crozier had sent an email and letter up the chain asking for faster help in responding to the outbreak, correspondence which was later leaked to the media.
A video of Crozier walking down the TR’s gangway for the last time, while hundreds of his sailors chanted his name, later went viral.
Navy brass insisted this summer that the leak was not the reason for his firing, instead citing missteps in how Crozier handled the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Several TR community members contacted Navy Times Wednesday about the photo of a Crozier-less captains list that hangs in a common area of the ship.
“Everybody’s in an uproar about it,” said one spouse, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions against their sailor.
“You can’t take away a CO’s position onboard a carrier,” the spouse added. “I just don’t understand what it accomplishes by taking that off.”
The spouse said they took Crozier’s removal from the list as more evidence that TR is “a toxic command and they’re playing politics.”
“It’s like they’re trying to erase everything he did,” they said.
The anger this week also reflects the raw feelings some TR crew and families are feeling these days.
The ship is getting ready for a so-called “double pump” deployment, just months after TR returned to San Diego in July from its nightmarish COVID cruise.
While community members say they had been told to expect the rare back-to-back deployments, pressing on with the new deployment has stung given what the crew already endured this year.
Adding to the strain, Seaman Isaiah Peralta, a 20-year-old TR sailor, fatally shot himself while standing security watch on a Naval Station North Island pier last week.
TR got underway a few hours later for scheduled training.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.