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Navy relieves 7th Fleet commander after fatal collisions

Aug 23, 2017 09:32 AM

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin loses his command after two deadly incidents involving merchant ships

(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Navy on Wednesday relieved the commander of the service’s 7th Fleet based in Japan due to “loss of confidence” in his ability to command, the Washington Post reported.

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, relieved Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin from his duties at the 7th Fleet’s Yokosuka base in Japan. Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, the Pacific Fleet’s deputy commander, will immediately take command. He had been scheduled to assume the post on Sept. 7.

The 7th Fleet has been plagued by accidents this year, including the deadly collision Monday of the destroyer USS John S. McCain with an oil tanker off Singapore, and a June 17 accident in which the destroyer USS Fitzgerald was ripped open by a Philippine containership.

Seven sailors were killed in the Fitzgerald disaster, and at least some of the 10 sailors reported missing from McCain are dead, Swift said Tuesday. The search for their remains continues inside the stricken ship as well as in a widening area of the Strait of Malacca where the collision occurred.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, announced Monday that he was ordering an “operational pause” across the world in which Navy commanders take a day or two each to make sure that sailors understand the fundamentals of good seamanship. He also directed Adm. Phil Davidson of Fleet Forces Command to launch a separate review of the 7th Fleet over the next few months to assess its culture, operations and readiness for missions.

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