Navy Relieves Two More Commanders in Ship Collisions


By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Navy relieved two senior commanders in the 7th Fleet in connection with recent deadly collisions of Navy ships.

Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer fired Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 70 and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commander of the destroyer squadron, citing a loss of confidence in their ability to command. Williams had tactical control of 7th Fleet’s cruisers and destroyers, as well as Carrier Air Wing 5 and the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, who previously led 7th Fleet, was previously relieved of duty.

In January, the USS Antietam ran aground and spilled roughly 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fluid into Tokyo Bay. In May, the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing boat while operating off the east coast of the divided peninsula. In June, a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged merchant ship killed seven sailors. Last month, a collision between the USS John S. McCain and a civilian merchant vessel killed 10 sailors.

The latest dismissals bring the number of fired senior commanders to six, including the top three officers of the Fitzgerald.

Navy Capt. Charlie Brown said Monday that 7th Fleet ships have completed the one-day operational pause ordered for the entire Navy to make sure crews were conducting safe operations. And Pacific Fleet is in the process of carrying out a ship-by-ship review of its vessels, looking at navigation, mechanical systems, bridge resource management and training.

Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, who was serving as commander of 7th Fleet’s amphibious forces, has now taken command of CTF 70. DESRON 15’s deputy commander, Capt. Jonathan Duffy, has assumed command of the squadron.

“History has shown that continuous operations over time causes basic skills to atrophy and in some cases gives commands a false sense of their overall readiness,” said Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift.

Swift has vowed to investigate manning, maintenance and cultural norms within the fleet to prevent further incidents.

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Two Women Bond Over Their Sailors In Aftermath of Fitzgerald Tragedy



By Debbie Gregory.

A sisterhood has been forged from the tragedy of the USS Fitzgerald collision with cargo ship ACX Crystal .

Erin Rehm, who lost her husband of 17 years, and Jacqueline Langlais, a sailor on the Fitzgerald who lost her fiancé, Seaman Dakota Rigsby, have bonded through their loss.

Langlais was also extremely close with Erin’s husband, Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., who introduced her to the man that became her fiancé.

Gunner’s Mate Rigsby and Rehm were among the seven sailors killed in the collision.

Erin Rehm and Langlais had met last year.

“Me being Gary’s best friend, Gary always talked to me about Erin,” said Langlais. “Gary’s passing gave us something in common. We’re trying to help each other get over that aspect.”

Rehm Jr. has been hailed as a hero, reportedly pulling some 20 sailors to safety before he perished..

Although she already knew that her husband was heroic, Erin Rehm has learned about other acts of kindness and going above and beyond in the days and weeks the followed the tragedy.

“He downplayed what he did for people, that it was no big deal,” she said. “He’d say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this real quick.’ Then I hear these stories of how he impacted people.”

Last November, when Rigsby reported to the USS Fitzgerald, he became friends with Gary Rehm, and it was Rehm who introduced Rigsby to Langlais, an information systems technician 2nd class.

“Gary was my best friend,” Langlais said, “so he brought Dakota over to my house one night and said, ‘I want to introduce you to one of my guys — my kids.'”

Although Langlais wasn’t looking to get romantically involved, these things have a way working out how they will. The two ended up falling in love, and. Rigsby popped the question.

While Langlais plans to stay in the Navy, she’s not sure if she’ll return to the Fitzgerald.

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