Navy fires top Admiral and Capt. of 7th Fleet for ‘loss of confidence’ as it investigates deadly destroyer collisions(US Pacific Command/Flickr)
The U.S. Navy has relieved Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Combined Task Force 70, and Capt. Jeffery Bennett, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, from their respective positions, it announced Monday.
The firings come amid an investigation into the deadly destroyer collisions over the summer that have killed 17 U.S. sailors, combined.
Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, relieved the officers from their posts due to “a loss of confidence in their ability to command,” the Navy said.
Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander of Task Force 76 (CTF 76), assumed duties as commander of CTF 70, and Capt. Jonathan Duffy, deputy commander of DESRON-15, assumed duties as commander, the Navy said.
Ten sailors died when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore. There was also the deadly June incident when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship and seven sailors died.
In August, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson announced a fleet-wide operational pause and comprehensive review of the U.S. Navy.
The U.S. Navy searched for 10 sailors after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with Liberian merchant ship Alnic MC east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca on Aug. 20. Five other sailors were injured.
There was significant damage to the hull of the USS John S. McCain, which resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms, 7th Fleet officials said, adding that damage control efforts by the crew stopped further flooding. The destroyer made its way back to Changi Naval Base in Singapore on its own power, despite a large hole in its port side.
The incident came just days after the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet announced it was relieving top officers of the USS Fitzgerald following a June 17 deadly crash that killed seven sailors.
The commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald were relieved of their duties.
The ACX Crystal, a large Philippine-flagged merchant ship, ran into the USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan in June, and seven sailors died. It had been reported that the freighter was on autopilot at the time of the collision, but also that the freighter sent warning signals, and that the USS Fitzgerald might have failed to respond to communications.
“The collision was avoidable and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship. Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald Sailors, injured three more, and damaged both ships,” the Seventh Fleet has said.