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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan and Johanna Salinas

Modly resigns amid pressure over Roosevelt comments

Thomas Modly Mark Esper Brett Crozier

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly today resigned on the heels of his comments slamming the fired commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who blew the whistle on the fast transmission of Covid-19 among the sailors on the 5,000-crew ship.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper accepted Modly's resignation. “He resigned on his own accord, putting the Navy and the sailors above self so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward. His care for the sailors was genuine,” Esper said in a statement.

As of today, 79 percent of the Roosevelt crew have been tested for Covid-19, with 230 positive cases so far, according to the Navy’s latest update. A total of 2,037 sailors have tested negative and 1,999 sailors have moved ashore. Of those off-loaded from the ship, 1,232 are staying at hotels. “As testing continues, the ship will keep enough sailors on board to sustain essential services and sanitize the ship in port. There have been zero hospitalizations,” the Navy said.

Modly earlier called Capt. Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of Roosevelt, either "too naïve or too stupid” over his handling of the ship's coronavirus outbreak. Modly last week relieved Crozier of duty, citing breach of the chain of command.

Modly came to Guam on Monday, but his visit was not made public until Adm. John Menoni, commander of the Joint Region Marianas, was asked to confirm the visit during a press conference Tuesday.

Navy spokespersons did not return the Pacific Island Times' email on Monday inquiring about Modly's Guam visit.

“Secretary Modly served the nation for many years, both in and out of uniform. I have the deepest respect for anyone who serves our country, and who places the greater good above all else. Secretary Modly did that today, and I wish him all the best” Esper said.

The defense secretary has appointed current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting secretary of the Navy. “Jim is a retired Admiral with a distinguished 26 year naval career, serving ashore, afloat, and overseas during his time in uniform,” Esper said.

Meals are delivered to sailors who are quarantined at unidentified hotels in Tumon. Facebook photo

Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of Naval Operations, has launched an investigation into the Roosevelt crisis, Esper said. “Any further action regarding the former commanding officer, Captain Crozier, will wait until that investigation is completed,” the defense chief said.

Crozier, who has since disembarked from the ship, was reported to have tested positive for Covid-19. He received a hero's sendoff from hundreds of sailors hours after he was relieved of duty.

Esper said in his conversation with McPherson and Gilday, he listed his three priorities as the military confronts the Covid-19 crisis. “First, protect our people, which means putting the health, safety and welfare of the U.S.$. Theodore Roosevelt's crew first; Second, maintain the warfighting readiness of the US military, which means getting the Roosevelt back to sea, and on patrol, as so n as safely possible; and Third, fully supporting the whole of government / whole of nation response to the coronavirus to protect the American people.”

John Menoni

During a video conference on Guam on Tuesday, Menoni said the sailors who have been moved from the ship are currently in controlled location in Naval Base Guam and in Tumon. “This number will continue to grow,” Menoni said.

Menoni said even when sailors received negative Covid-19 tests, the team continues to conduct daily health checks to make sure the sailors as well as the civilian component of the team do contribute to the spread of Covid-19 and to preserve the warfighting readiness of the forces.

“There has been a massive level effort on this island by both military and civilians, government of Guam and local folks, to get ready for and try to help TR sailors as best as we possibly can,” Menoni said.

“I see every day people innovate, people work hard to make sure they break barriers, people make sure they find out where the constraints are in any system that prevent any help getting to the sailors What I’d also like emphasize is we’re on the frontlines and at leading edge about learning how these viruses move through ships. We’re going to take what we learn here from a logistics, from a medical, from a protection standpoint and apply it moving forward.”

“I got to I've a special thanks and shout-out to the hundreds services members and civilians who have been dedicated to this task with TR since March 25.”

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