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James Stavridis

A Navy Captain’s Brave Fight Against Coronavirus

There’s no social distancing on an aircraft carrier, so an emergency stop was the right call.

Cramped quarters.

Cramped quarters.

Source: U.S. Navy via Getty Images

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I have been a ship captain, a commodore in charge of a group of destroyers, and an admiral in command of a carrier strike group with a nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. In the course of my career, I made many hard choices at sea in both peace and combat — but I never faced the kind of hard choice that the captain of the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Brett Crozier, just had to make. 

Faced with the coronavirus sweeping through his 5,000-sailor crew, he reached out to his chain of command and requested permission to abort his assigned mission patrolling the Pacific and South China Sea, and come to all stop at Guam to disinfect his ship and save his crew from unnecessary medical risks. The Navy has now relieved him of command of the carrier. How should we evaluate his actions in the face of an invisible but deadly foe?