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Navy relieves two officers of duty in wake of USS George Washington fire


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The two top-ranking officers on the USS George Washington were relieved of duty Wednesday in San Diego in the aftermath of a fire that caused $70 million in damage and injured more than three dozen sailors, the Navy announced.

The removal of both the ship's commanding officer, Capt. David C. Dykhoff, and its executive officer, Capt. David M. Dober, was an "unusual" move for the Navy, according to a top spokesman with the Navy's command in the Pacific.

But the May 22 fire -- which the Navy says appears to have started by unauthorized cigarette smoking near improperly stored oil containers -- delayed the carrier's move to Japan and injured 37 sailors who fought the fire, including one who suffered first- and second-degree burns.

"Relieving both officers is unusual in the Navy," said Capt. Scott Gureck, spokesman for Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. "This was a pretty serious safety issue that we are going to correct."

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The skipper is responsible for everything that happens on a ship. Every year a number of unlucky or poor skippers get fired.

Navy commander relieved after running ship aground

12:56 p.m. July 28, 2008

SAN DIEGO – The Navy has relieved the commander of the USS Pearl Harbor of duty after the San Diego-based ship ran aground in the Persian Gulf.

Navy officials say in a statement Monday that Commander Xavier F. Valverde was relieved of command over the weekend following a preliminary inquiry into the grounding of the ship on July 21.

Rear Admiral Kendall Card of the Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group Three says he lost confidence in Valverde's ability to command.

There were no injuries or damage reported to the ship, which is used to transport amphibious vehicles and crews.

SAN DIEGO - The commander of a Navy air reconnaissance squadron that provides the president and the defense secretary the airborne ability to command the nation's nuclear weapons has been relieved of duty, the Navy said Tuesday.

Cmdr. Shawn Bentley was relieved of duty Monday by the Navy for loss of confidence in his ability to command, only three months after taking the job.

Capt. Brian Costello, commander of the Navy's Strategic Communications Wing One, removed Bentley from command, said Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the Naval Air Forces.

Brown said Bentley, who is based with the squadron at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was removed after an investigation by the Navy's Inspector General. The Navy did not release any details about the investigation or about any possible allegations against Bentley.

But a source close to the investigation told The Associated Press that Bentley's removal regarded an undisclosed personal matter and was not related to the squadron's missions or duties. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

There was no telephone listing for Shawn Bentley in Oklahoma City, and the Navy did not make Bentley available for comment.

The primary duty of the squadron, nicknamed the "Ironman," is to provide communication with ballistic missile submarines, Brown said.

It is also one of three squadrons that provides airborne communications for the president and defense secretary to command and control the nation's nuclear submarines, bombers and missile silos, according to the Wing's official Web site.

Brown said Cmdr. Erik Johnson, who previously served as the commanding officer of the VQ-3, has resumed command of the squadron.

Bentley has been temporarily assigned to a staff job with the Strategic Communications wing, Brown said.

Bentley's removal, which was first reported by The Navy Times, is the latest in a series of high-profile firings by the Navy.

Last month, the Navy relieved the commander of the USS Pearl Harbor of duty after the ship ran aground in the Persian Gulf. That was followed days later by the announcement the Navy fired its commanding officer and executive officer of the USS George Washington after a fire onboard the nuclear-powered aircraft caused $70 million in damage.