Navy sacks 7th Fleet commander after 2nd deadly collision
The U.S. Navy announced on Wednesday morning that the commander of its 7th Fleet had been dismissed "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command."
U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift relieved Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin of his command. Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, who had already been named to succeed Aucoin earlier, assumed command immediately.
Vessels under the command of the 7th Fleet, which is based in Yokosuka, Japan, have been involved in a string of incidents at sea in Asia this year, including the deadly collision of the USS John S. McCain with a merchant tanker this week, which left 10 U.S. sailors missing and presumed dead.
The collision on Monday tore a large hole in the side of the McCain. U.S. Marine Corps. and Navy divers joined the search effort on Tuesday and found some remains inside the stricken vessel as they accessed flooded compartments.
The McCain is docked at Singapore's Changi Naval Base, and efforts to recover the missing sailors continue.
The chief of U.S. Naval operations officially called for all Navy ships worldwide to halt operations and review basic training on Monday, just hours after the fatal collision near the busy shipping lanes of the Strait of Malacca.
As CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reported, the Navy called it an "operational pause." It was meant to give ship commanders a chance to review basic seamanship and teamwork after a series of incidents in the Pacific which have called into question the level of training on U.S. naval vessels.
The fear is that the gaping hole in the side of yet another U.S. warship could be a sign of a bigger problem in the Pacific. The McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, suffered extensive damage when it collided with the oil and chemical tanker as it sailed toward Singapore for a routine port visit.
Just two months ago, another ship from the 7th Fleet, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan. Seven Navy sailors died in that incident.
On Friday, the Fitzgerald's captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was relieved of his duties and several other sailors were punished -- a sign that mistakes were made on the U.S. warship.
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