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US Seventh Fleet Commander Removed after Accidents in Asia
Corrective action was expected after four warships under the seventh fleet were involved in collisions and accidents in Asia leading to nearly 20 deaths this year. The Navy has announced that Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the seventh fleet with its headquarters at Yokosuka Base has been relieved of his command. He has been held accountable for the unprecedented casualties and accidents that have taken place of ships under his command. This removal of the commander is in the best tradition of military service, where the man who wears the crown is answerable for acts of commission and omission under his command. The fleet commander has been replaced by the newly promoted Vice Admiral Phil Swayer who has arrived at base headquarters to take over command of the seventh fleet. This news is widely reported by many news channels including CNN.
Bad year for US Navy
2017 is a bad year for the US Navy and the seventh fleet in particular. The unprecedented sacking of a senior commander took place after two collisions took place of warships with civilian ships at a distance of hundreds of miles apart.
The collisions it appears could have been avoided and point to a lacuna in training and following procedures. Worse 17 sailors have been killed for no fault by them, deaths that could have been avoided. These deaths during peacetime are cause for concern. This has led to the navy calling of all operations for a day to focus on the well being of the fleet. Earlier the marines had no choice but to ground the entire air fleet for a day after a couple of air accidents setting the alarm bells ringing in the top echelons of the military.
The latest incident that triggered the removal was the collision of the guided-missile destroyer with a tanker in the Strait of Malacca. This resulted in the death of 10 seamen and initial reports indicate it could be a case of professional incompetence.
The American Navy is a global force and commanders of fleets and formations have the onerous task of laying down SOPs and training schedules. There is also a need for the crew to be motivated.
The spate of accidents has worried the navy command as well as the commander in chief, President Trump. No navy during peacetime can afford to live with so many accidents and casualties. These accidents lower the morale of the sailors and can lead to a lack of confidence in the officers who lead them. Earlier in the accident in the Sea of Japan involving the destroyer, USS Fitzgerald an inquiry report has led to the removal of the captain of the ship and a dozen more will face disciplinary action. Now the seventh fleet commander is himself on the chopping block.
The US Navy with its global responsibility can ill afford to lose warships and trained men during peacetime operations.Hopefully, the lacuna in command, control, and training will be rectified and sailors and ships during routine training exercises and voyages will be motivated to perform better. There is no room for laxity with the Chinese and Russian fleets breathing down the neck of the American fleet and its allies.