NAVY: 7th Fleet commander dismissed after deadly collision

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Navy commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin has been dismissed from his duties after the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet suffered two deadly collisions in less than three months.

The Navy cited a loss of confidence in Aucoin’s ability to command, the Associated Press reported.

The 7th Fleet has been involved in three collisions since January, and the last two resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors.

The USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker before dawn on Monday near Singapore. Ten sailors were initially reported missing, but Navy divers found the remains of several sailors in a flooded compartment on Tuesday.

In June, seven sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship in waters off Japan.

In January, the USS Antietam guided missile cruiser ran aground near Yokosuka base, the home port of the 7th Fleet; and in May, another cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain from the Navy’s 3rd Fleet had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat.

In a news conference on Tuesday, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift told reporters that each of the incidents was “unique,” but noted that “they cannot be viewed in isolation.”

Swift said that the Navy would conduct an investigation “to find out if there is a common cause … and if so, how do we solve that.”

On Monday, Navy Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, ordered a pause in 7th Fleet operations for a few days to allow commanders to get together with leaders, sailors and command officials and identify any immediate steps that needed to be taken to ensure safety.

A broader U.S. Navy review will look at the 7th Fleet’s performance, including personnel, navigation capabilities, maintenance, equipment, surface warfare training, munitions, certifications and how sailors move through their careers. According to Richardson, the review will be conducted in conjunction with the Navy’s office of the inspector general, the safety center and private companies that make equipment used by sailors.

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