USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Philippine Sea on March 18, 2020.Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh / U.S. Navy

By Courtney Kube and Mosheh Gains

The Navy announced it has relieved the captain who sounded the alarm about an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Capt. Brett Crozier, who commands the Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000, was relieved of his command Thursday, but he will keep his rank and remain in the Navy.

Crozier raised the alarm this week, sending a strongly worded letter to Navy leadership that detailed his concerns about the spread of the virus on the ship. The letter leaked to the media and generated a series of headlines.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday evening, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier was removed from his post because he sent the letter over “non-secure unclassified email” to a “broad array of people” rather than up the chain of command.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew,” Modly said. “Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns.”

Image: Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.U.S. Navy

Modly insisted the that decision was his alone. He praised Crozier but said he had concluded that the captain “allowed the complexity of the challenge of the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally.”

“The responsibility for this decision rests with me,” Modly added. “I expect no congratulations for it. Captain Crozier is an incredible man.”

In a statement, a group of top Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee sharply criticized the decision to remove Crozier.

“The dismissal of Captain Crozier at this critical moment, as the sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt are confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, is a reckless, political move that reeks of undue command influence,” read the statement from chairman Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, subcommittee chairs Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, Rep. John Garamendi of California and Rep. Jackie Speier of California.

Former Vice President Joe Biden also blasted the Navy’s acting secretary in a statement, saying that he “shot the messenger — a commanding officer who was faithful to both his national security mission and his duty to care for his sailors, and who rightly focused attention on a broader concern about how to maintain military readiness during this pandemic.”

The ship, which was operating in the Pacific, pulled into port in Guam last week several days after multiple crew members tested positive for the virus. By Wednesday, there were 93 positive test results, and more than 1,000 people were taken off the carrier and placed into isolation on Guam. In total, 2,700 people are expected to disembark the ship this week, with a smaller crew remaining to maintain the carrier.

Weeks after putting a hold on permanent change-of-station moves and non-essential travel both abroad and in the United States for the next two to three months, the Pentagon has issued a stop-movement order that will affect all personnel and Defense Department civilians.

The order affects travel for exercises, as well as deployments from combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Pentagon announced Wednesday

“Approximately 90,000 service members slated to deploy or redeploy over the next 60 days will likely be impacted by this stop movement order,” the release said.

Exceptions include:

  • Travel for military medical patients or providers.
  • Movements of Navy ships, as long as they observe 14-day quarantine periods.
  • Those who are already in the process of traveling.
  • Those who are away on temporary duty.
KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA, JAPAN U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Johnathan Sabat-Figueroa, bioenvironmental engineering technician assigned to the 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, administers an N95 mask fit test Mar. 19, 2020, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The procedure to ensure a proper seal on the N95 mask, also known as Qualitative Fit Test Protocol (QLFT), uses a substance called Bitrex and consists of several breathing exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cynthia Belío)

A combatant commander, military service secretary or the chairman of the joint chiefs, Army Gen. Mark Milley can also grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis, if the travel is mission essential, a humanitarian issue or due to another extreme hardship.

” Currently, this order is not expected to impact the continued drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which is scheduled to be complete within 135 days following the signed agreement,” the release said.

Two U.S. soldiers died at Camp Humphreys in South Korea over the weekend, according to the 2nd Infantry Division.

Both soldiers — Pfc. Marissa Jo Gloria, 25, and Spc. Clay Welch, 20 — were pronounced dead by emergency medical personnel after being found unresponsive in their barracks. The cause of their deaths is unclear, and investigations are underway.

Welch, originally from Dearborn Heights, Mich., was a combat medic specialist and was assigned to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. He first arrived in South Korea in February with the brigade, and died on March 22.

“Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Murphy and I would like to send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Spc. Welch. Our thoughts are with them during this difficult time,” Lt. Col. James Armstrong, Welch’s battalion commander, said in an Army news release. “Clay’s death affects every member in our formation. We are all deeply saddened by the loss.”

Gloria was originally from Moorhead, Minn., and was a combat engineer with the 2nd Infantry Division sustainment brigade. She had been stationed at Camp Humphreys since April 2019, and died on March 21.

“Marissa was a key member of the Jungle Cats Battalion,” Lt. Col. Robert Dion, commander of the brigade’s 11th Engineer Battalion, said in an Army news release. “We are all deeply saddened by the loss and will keep her family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Although investigations into their deaths are continuing, Stars & Stripes reports that the 2nd Infantry Division claims their deaths did not stem from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2nd Infantry Division did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Military Times.

Private Scott Clark's suffered cuts to his head in the late-night fight.
Private Scott Clark’s suffered cuts to his head in the late-night fight.

Fists flew, blood was spilled and one man lay dazed in the corridor of his barracks.

It was not self-defense, a court martial at Linton Military Camp ruled on Wednesday.

Lance Corporal James Laurenson, 28, was found guilty of wounding with intent to injure 32-year-old Private Scott Clark in Hinton barracks at the camp on December 14, 2018.

Laurenson’s rank was downgraded to private and he will spend 30 days in military prison at Burnham in Christchurch.

“If you had simply acted in self-defense against that first blow and done nothing more I very much doubt we would be in this court now,” Judge Kevin Riordan said during sentencing.

Blood from the fight splattered the walls. It stained the corridor’s carpet and painted Clark’s face and body.

At least four lacerations from his face stained his sheets and pillow red after Laurenson and Sergeant David Wrightson tried to patch him up and put him to bed after the assault.

Wrightson, 35, was tried alongside Laurenson for failing to comply with written orders for not intervening when Laurenson was assaulting Clark. He was found not guilty.

Lance Corporal James Laurenson was found guilty of wounding with intent to injure.
Lance Corporal James Laurenson was found guilty of wounding with intent to injure.

Clark was woken by the pair when they entered his room in the early hours of the morning – they were all drunk after an end-of-year function.

Laurenson and Wrightson were checking on Clark’s wellbeing after seeing vomit on the floor, defence lawyers said.

Frustrated at the intrusion, Clark asked the men to leave, but the invasion continued, he said.

He described Laurenson throwing peanuts around his room and making fun of his ability to handle his beers as he had sprayed his room with vomit in a failed attempt to reach a sink before falling asleep.

Clark snapped after 30 minutes, launching himself at Laurenson.

Clark admitted he swung first, but the trial came down to the accused’s intentions during the few moments after Laurenson struck his first blow to Clark, Riordan said.

A person under attack could use reasonable force to defend themselves, but they must stop when the attack stopped, he said.

Sergeant David Wrightson, 35, was found not guilty of failing to comply with written orders.
Sergeant David Wrightson, 35, was found not guilty of failing to comply with written orders.

The severity of Clark’s injuries and the 15-metre distance the fight travelled from the barracks room showed Laurenson’s intent was to give Clark a “jolly good beating”, prosecutor Colonel Craig Ruane said.

“When [Clark] was safe in his bed at night time he should have been allowed to carry on sleeping. He shouldn’t have had to deal with an experienced soldier like you disrespecting him,” the judge told Laurenson.

“When he woke up the next morning covered in blood that must have been quite a shock to him. There is something of mental trauma associated with this.

“Anyone else who is in your situation must be deterred from doing this ever again.”

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 18, 2020   /   03:17 pm

Court-martial of gay soldier form of discrimination, activists sayParticipants raise a rainbow flag in a march to commemorate International Women’s Day in Jakarta, on March 8, 2019. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

A gay soldier, a second lieutenant of the Indonesian Army identified only by his initials DS, is fighting a legal battle over his alleged personal relations with three men in 2017 and 2018. His prosecution is discriminatory, according to rights groups.

The prosecutor, Lt. Col. I Putu Gede Budiadi, indicted DS for his alleged same-sex relations with one man at a hotel in Canggu in Bali in April 2017, another man at a hotel in Denpasar in October 2017 and a college student at a hotel in Seminyak in 2018.

DS, who joined the Army after graduating from a military academy in Magelang in Central Java in 2016, was accused of committing a crime based on Article 281 of the Criminal Code on public decency. The prosecutor was also accusing DS of disobeying a command and violating Article 103 of the Military Criminal Code.

The trial against DS in a martial-court in Denpasar was the latest example of numerous forms of persecution confronting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community across the country, according to activists. Many activists and experts have been denouncing such accusations against people for same-sex relations as a form of discrimination and a violation of human rights.

The indictment was not the correct application of Article 281, which stipulates that the offense must be carried out “publicly” in open spaces, said Institute for Criminal Justice Reform’s (ICJR) researcher Genoveva “Geno” Alicia Karisa Shiela Maya.

The article was often interpreted loosely so as to provide room for discriminatory prosecutions of members of the LGBT community.

“The reason [behind the use of the article against LGBT people] might be more because of social factors,” Geno told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. “If the law is applied appropriately, there is actually no basis that can be used to prosecute [LGBT people], but the problem is this law is being interpreted freely, so such cases keep happening.”

Between 2006 and 2017, LGBT advocacy group Arus Pelangi recorded 172 cases of persecution of members of the marginalized community across nine provinces in the country. The cases include various forms of persecution, such as intimidation, abuse, maltreatment, molestation, personal data leaks, raids, destruction of goods, rape, forced-dispersion, nonprocedural arrests and detainment, murders, extortion, obstacles in obtaining permits to hold events and forced-conversion attempts.

Many Indonesians perceive LGBT people negatively. A 2018 survey by Saiful Mujani Research Center (SMRC) found that, out of 1,200 respondents, 87.6 percent saw LGBT people as a threat and 81.5 percent said the orientation was prohibited by religion.

Activists said the central government is complicit in the rampant discrimination against this community, as evident in last year’s civil servant recruitment involving 190,000 vacant civil servant posts at 74 ministries and state agencies, as well as 467 local administration offices. The Trade Ministry required its candidates “not to exhibit sexual orientation deviations”. Worse still, the Attorney General’s Office required its candidates “not to be mentally disabled, including sexual orientation deviations and behavioral deviations”.

“[DS’s] case is appalling and discriminatory,” Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said in a recent statement.

“It sets a dangerous precedent for other soldiers who are or are perceived to be engaging in consensual same-sex activities and has repercussions for broader society. No one should be persecuted or discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.”

The court-martial of DS showed that Indonesia did not comply with its obligation as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects same-sex relations under the rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination, Amnesty said.

In 2018, for example, 12 transwomen were arrested by the police in North Aceh, which, according to Amnesty, was in violation of the treaty. Moreover, five beauty salons where the 12 transwomen used to work were closed by the police.

“It is important for them to acknowledge that a person’s sexual orientation is totally irrelevant to their ability to serve,” said Usman. “Going ahead with this prosecution would further institutionalize discrimination and risk inciting violence against LGBT people in the military and in wider society.”

Supreme Court spokesperson and justice Andi Samsan Nganro refused to comment on the DS case, saying it would “disrupt the court’s independence” or be “violating the presumption of innocence principle”