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Two senior Navy officers were fired Monday due to a “loss of confidence in their ability to command” after two collisions with civilian ships in the western Pacific killed 17 sailors at sea, the Pentagon said.

Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of the warships on patrol in the Asia-Pacific region, and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commander of guided missile destroyers in the region, were the latest leaders removed since the Navy launched an investigation last month into the deadly accidents.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon he was confident in how the Navy was examining the mistakes that have shaken the military and political leadership. In all, four U.S. warships had collisions or ran aground in the Pacific this year. 

The Navy has “a tradition of holding officers accountable, and they’ll do what they think is necessary,” he said.

In addition to the loss of life in the Navy, Mattis said he was concerned about a string of aviation crashes and other accidents during training exercises that have killed or injured more than 50 troops this year.

“We’re going to look at what happened on the demolition range and we’re going to look at what happened at seamanship on a ship and we’re going to look at what happened when an aircraft came out of the air,” he said.

A U.S. Army special operations service member was killed Thursday and several others were injured during a training incident at Fort Bragg, N.C.

A day earlier, 15 Marines were injured during exercise after their amphibious landing vehicle caught fire at Camp Pendleton.

“What has caused the compilation of these coming in?” Mattis said. “Right now I don’t have that broader knowledge.”

Mattis focused much of his comments on the Navy accidents because so many sailors died.

The Navy has fired several commanders related to the deadly collisions, including Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the Japan-based 7th Fleet that oversees all operations in the Asia-Pacific region

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, the Navy’s top officer, ordered a sweeping review last month to determine why trained crews on U.S. warships carrying radars and other high-tech sensors failed to avoid collisions while underway.

Richardson also announced a rare “operational pause” to give time to the Navy to assess its policies and procedures.

The stand-down was announced hours after the U.S. guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain collided on Aug. 21 with the Alnic MC, a Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker that is nearly three times its size.

Ten sailors were killed in the accident, which occurred at the entrance to the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, near Singapore.

Two months earlier, on June 17, the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald was rammed by a much larger Philippine-flagged container ship, the ACX Crystal, about 50 nautical miles from the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan. 

Seven sailors were killed in that accident. The commander and executive officer of the Fitzgerald were later relieved of command.

A guided-missile cruiser, Lake Champlain, collided with a South Korean fishing vessel on May 9 off the Korean Peninsula. Another guided-missile cruiser, Antietam, ran aground Jan. 31 and gushed oil into Tokyo Bay.


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Source : http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-201709-htmlstory.html

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