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USS McCain’s former XO found guilty of dereliction of duty

The USS John S. McCain’s former executive officer has been found guilty of dereliction of duty in connection to a collision that killed 10 sailors last summer.

The judgment for Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez, who served as second-in-command of the destroyer when it crashed into an oiler tanker east of Singapore on Aug. 21, came Monday during a series of nonjudicial punishment hearings held in the wake of fatal collisions last year involving the McCain and the USS Fitzgerald, the Navy announced Thursday.

Sanchez received a punitive letter of reprimand as a result of the findings, the announcement said.

The hearings were conducted by Adm. Frank Caldwell, who was tapped in October to oversee disciplinary actions for the accidents. He also dismissed charges for an officer and an enlisted crewmember from the Fitzgerald, the Navy statement said. Seven sailors died on that ship after it collided with a cargo vessel on June 17 off the coast of mainland Japan.

Monday’s proceedings were the last planned nonjudicial punishment hearings held for the collisions, the statement added.

Article 32 hearings to consider court-martialing Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who commanded the Fitzgerald, and Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, former commander of the McCain, and three Fitzgerald officers are scheduled for March 6-8 at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

Benson and Sanchez both face charges that include negligent homicide, hazarding a ship and dereliction of duty.

Earlier this month, the Navy punished four sailors for their roles in the collisions.

The executive officer, command master chief and one officer from the Fitzgerald were found guilty of dereliction in the performance of duties and received a punitive letter of reprimand. An enlisted sailor from the McCain was also found guilty of dereliction in the performance of duties and received a punitive letter of reprimand, forfeiture of a half-month’s pay for two months and a reduction in rate to the next inferior paygrade. The forfeiture of pay and reduction in rate were suspended for six months.

Caldwell dismissed the NJP charges of one officer and another enlisted sailor from the McCain.

A slew of sailors have either been fired or forced into retirement in wake of the collisions.

Last year, the Navy relieved the ships’ commanders along with the head of 7th Fleet. The leaders of Task Force 70 and Destroyer Squadron 15, which oversee the fleet’s destroyers and cruisers, were also relieved of their duties.

Last September, Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift announced he would retire at an unspecified date after being told he would not be the Navy’s pick to take over U.S. Pacific Command after Adm. Harry Harris retires this year.

Last month, former Surface Forces head Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden retired early in light of unspecified disciplinary actions recommended against him in a probe of the collisions.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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