A cheering and applauding crowd of sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt wished farewell to their captain, who the Navy relieved of command after he raised concerns about the spreading coronavirus on his ship in a letter that was leaked to the media.
Hundreds were pictured in the gathering in the ship's hangar deck and many chanted Capt. Brett Crozier's name in multiple videos posted to social media.
Farwell Sir it's been a pleasure #WEARETRSTRONG #MYCO #TRPosted by Michael Washington on Friday, April 3, 2020
In a video posted Friday to the Facebook page of Michael Washington, with the hashtag #MYCO and #WEARETRSTRONG.
"That's how you send out one of the greatest captains you ever had," someone says in the video, then using an acronym for greatest of all time, adds: "The GOAT, the man for the people."
Crozier was dismissed Thursday due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command and for not using his chain of command to make service leaders aware of his concerns about the virus outbreak that had infected more than 100 sailors on the ship, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said at the Pentagon.
Another video shows the career naval officer walk to the brow of the ship. He waves to the crowd, salutes and waves again before turning and walking down the gangway -- alone -- to the pier.
So long to our hero Captain Crozier 🥺❤️Posted by Taliah Peterkin on Friday, April 3, 2020
Crozier's pained letter, which was leaked to San Francisco Chronicle and published Tuesday, "created a ... little bit of panic on the ship," Modly said.
The letter had warned that the outbreak could kill sailors, saying that "if we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset -- our sailors."
The ship, now docked in Guam, was on a scheduled deployment to the Pacific region before it was forced to divert to the island after several initial virus cases were reported aboard the ship last week. Crozier had asked in his letter to have almost the entire crew removed to slow the spread of the outbreak.
The Navy has already moved some 1,000 sailors off the ship and was working to remove another 2,700 by Friday.
Capt. Daniel Keeler, the ship's executive officer, is serving as acting commander while Capt. Carlos Sardiello, from whom Crozier had assumed command of the aircraft carrier in November, was traveling to Guam to take the helm again, Modly said.
Adm. Robert Burke, vice chief of naval operations, will conduct an investigation into the matter and the command climate of Pacific Fleet to determine why there was a breakdown of the chain of command, Modly said.
Regarding Crozier, he had "allowed the complexity of his challenge with the [coronavirus] breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally," Modly said. "It creates a panic and creates the perception that the Navy is not on the job, the government's not on the job, and it's just not true."
In the hours since Crozier's dismissal was announced, the backlash online has been swift, with more than 55,000 people signing a Change.org petition calling for his reinstatement.
On the Reddit social media site, memes began to pop up in the Navy channel expressing support for the captain and distrust of higher-level officials.
Stars and Stripes reporter Joshua Karsten contributed to this report.