26 April 2011
On Saturday, 23 April 2011, VADM Harry Harris, Commander, SIXTH Fleet, relieved the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer of USS PONCE (LPD 15). I’ve provided a summary of events below to make sure you have the facts behind the decisions that were made and the timeline on which the Preliminary Investigation was conducted. I fully support VADM Harris’ decision – I believe he made exactly the right call.
Unfortunately, like PONCE, most of the Commanding Officers (COs) detached for cause on my watch were for personal misconduct. In every case, each Commanding Officer, whether through personal misconduct, negligence, or exceptionally poor judgment, lost the trust of their subordinates or their superiors and without that fundamental building block in place - trust - they no longer had the ability to command. Here's a summary of the ten Commanding Officer reliefs that occurred in 2010 and 2011 in U.S. Fleet Forces.
- USS THE SULLIVANS- Multiple operational incidents culminating with a buoy collision that damaged the port screw while deployed.
- USS JOHN L HALL - Collision with a pier while deployed
- USS TRUXTUN - Inappropriate relationship with a junior member of the wardroom.
- NCTS Bahrain - Inappropriate relationships with several members of the command.
- USS GUNSTON HALL - Sexual harassment, maltreatment of subordinates, assault, drunk and disorderly conduct. Command Master Chief (CMC) also relieved for failure to take appropriate action for inappropriate/unprofessional behavior.
- USS MEMPHIS - Cheating ring involving exams.
- NMCB 21 - Failure to address inappropriate/unprofessional behavior by subordinates. CMC also relieved for failure to take appropriate action for fraternization and unduly familiar relationships.
- USS ENTERPRISE - Exceptional lack of judgment while XO of ENTERPRISE.
- USS STOUT - Failure to take action to deter unprofessional behavior in overseas ports, hostile command climate. CMC also relieved for failure to correct a pervasive pattern of unprofessional behavior by the ship's crew.
- USS PONCE - Dereliction of duty, unprofessional conduct, favoritism, hostile command climate. Executive Officer (XO also relieved for being complicit by action and inaction in creating a hostile, unprofessional and unsafe environment onboard PONCE.