After Operational Pause, US Navy Moves to Dismiss Commander of 7th Fleet

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Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, is on the chopping block following the incident on Monday in which the US John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, collided with a merchant ship. After the collision, 10 sailors were considered missing, though some bodies have since been recovered.

As reported by CNN, the USS McCain and a tanker ship collided in the area east of the Malacca Strait on Monday. This is the fourth accident involving a US warship in Asian waters this year.

At the time of the incident, the USS McCain was under the command of Aucoin, who is based in Yokosuka, Japan.

In response to the accident, the US Navy called for a one-day operational pause, a process which involves all associated units to stand down for a period of 24 hours to allow time for additional assessments and reviews.

Speaking about the decision to require an operational pause, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson stated, “This trend demands more forceful action.”

Since the incident involving the USS McCain occurred, Navy and Marine Corps divers have located the remains of some of the missing crew members in a sealed compartment aboard the vessel. The Royal Malaysian Navy also found one body at sea, but it is unknown if it is one of the missing sailors.

Aucoin has come under scrutiny after this latest collision as the USS Fitzgerald, a US Navy destroyer that collided with a cargo ship off of Japan’s Izu Penisula, was also under his command at the time of the incident.

The incident involving the USS Fitzgerald, which occurred on June 17, resulted in the deaths of seven US sailors.

After that incident, Aucoin spoke to reporters, saying the loss of life under his command “is something we all feel.”

While Aucion’s removal from his position is not yet official, it is reported that the US Navy intends to go forward with that action based on information from a US official.

Aucoin was already slated to retire next month, but this move allows the US Navy to expedite the process and bring Aucoin’s replacement, Rear Admiral Phillip Sawyer, into the position faster than originally intended.

According to USNI News, Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift is said to be on his way to Japan to formally relieve Aucoin of his duties.