Navy ousts admiral, captain from jobs

By Jeanette Steele

The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — An admiral and captain in charge of U.S. naval units in Asia were removed from their commands due to loss of confidence in their abilities, the Navy said Monday.

They are Rear Adm. Charles Williams, who commanded Task Force 70, which has tactical control of U.S. ships in Asia, and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, who led the destroyer squadron based in Japan.

This is the latest fallout from a deadly series of ship mishaps in Asia this year that killed 17 U.S. sailors and left at least two U.S. warships gravely damaged.

The move comes one day before the Navy secretary and chief of naval operations are scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the incidents.

On Aug. 21, 10 sailors died when the destroyer John S. McCain collided with a Liberian chemical tanker.

That followed the June 17 death of seven sailors when the destroyer Fitzgerald destroyer collided before dawn with a container ship.

Additionally, the San Diego-based cruiser Lake Champlain was hit by a South Korean fishing boat while deployed in Asia in May. The cruiser did not suffer major damage.

And in January, the Japan-based cruiser Antietam ran aground on shoals just outside its base in Yokosuka and spilled fluid into Tokyo Bay.

In addition to today’s announcements out of Japan, the Navy has also replaced its commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. That fleet, led by a three-star admiral, oversees all naval forces while they are in Asia.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was removed from his job last month as an expression of loss of confidence. It was a somewhat ceremonial gesture; Aucoin was already scheduled to retire a month later.