The second-in-command of a U.S. Navy destroyer was relieved from duty on Friday for refusing to get vaccinated or tested for COVID-19, according to a senior Navy official who spoke with Fox News.
Cmdr. Lucian Kins, the executive officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81), was relieved on Friday night after his COVID-19 vaccine exemption request had been denied and he refused to be tested, the Navy official told Fox News.
Lt. Cdr. Jason S. Fischer confirmed to USNI News that Kins was relieved of his command, but Fischer did not specify the exact reason for the relief. Fischer said only that the removal was for Kins’ “failure to abide by a lawful order” and for a “loss of confidence” in Kins’ ability to perform his duties. The relief was ordered by Capt. Ken Anderson, commander of Naval Surface Squadron 14.
Kins had reportedly applied for a religious exemption, but he was refused by the Navy. Thus far, the Navy has not granted a single religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine, nor has it granted religious exemptions to any other vaccines in seven years.
Sources told Fox News that Kins had begun an appeal after his exemption request was rejected.
Kins continued to serve as the ship’s second-in-command after his vaccine exemption request was rejected. Navy officials told Fox News the reason Kins was relieved was due to his refusal to get tested, and not simply because he was unvaccinated.
In a Nov. 28 naval administrative notice, the Navy announced that unvaccinated sailors “will be subject to screening testing for COVID-19 at least weekly” when entering their normal Department of Defense facility workplaces. Service members who work remotely, and who enter DoD workplaces on a less-than-weekly basis, do not have to undergo the same weekly testing, but must undergo a test and have a negative test result within 72 hours of when they do enter a DoD workplace.
Prior to his relief, Kins was on track to become the warship’s next commander and likely would have assumed that role within the next year and a half. According to Fischer, Kins will instead be “reassigned to the staff of Naval Surface Squadron 14.” The squadron is based out of Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida.
Lt. Cmdr. Han Yi, the destroyer’s plans and tactics officer, will temporarily replace Kins as the executive officer until a permanent replacement is chosen for Kins.
As of Friday, 5,731 active-duty sailors were still unvaccinated. That number includes sailors who are in the process of becoming fully vaccinated, those who have already received exemptions and those who are still refusing the vaccine altogether.