There has been a string of firings of Navy officers in the past week in the US Navy as it continues to hold its quality of service to the highest standard. So far, the US Navy has relieved two destroyers’ commanders, a top officer of the USS Bulkeley, the commander of the Recruit Training Command, and the commanding officer of an Electronic Attack Squadron.
On June 14, the commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88), Commander Peter Lesaca, was relieved of command by Destroyer Squadron (COMDESRON) 23 commodore Captain Patrick H. O’Mahoney for “loss of confidence in his ability to command according to a Navy press release.” It was revealed that Deputy Commodore Destroyer Squadron 23 Captain Larry Repass will temporarily replace Lesaca until a permanent replacement is determined.
Born in the Philippines and raised in San Diego, Lesaca assumed command of the USS Preble last August 2021. He was rumored to be fired from his post as there had been reports that he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Prior to that, Commander Devine Johnson of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) was relieved of duty by Destroyer Squadron Two (CDS-2) commodore Captain Stefan Walch according to a Navy press release. USS Bulkeley Command Master Chief Earl Sanders was also relieved by Walch. Both were also relieved due to “a loss of confidence in their ability to effectively function as a command leadership team.”
As a temporary substitute, Deputy Commodore Destroyer Squadron Two Capt. William “Mac” Harkin was assigned the commanding officer while Master Chief Petty Officer Christy Reed temporarily replaced Sanders. It was also revealed in the press release that both Johnson and Sanders were temporarily resigned to the staff of Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic.
On the same day, it was revealed by another Navy press release that Captain Jeffry Sandin, the commanding officer for the Recruit Training Command was relieved by Rear Adm. Jennifer Couture, the commander of the Naval Service Training Command. Sandin was the head of the Navy’s basic training location. As a result, Chief of Staff of the Naval Service Training Command Captain Kertreck Brooks had assumed the responsibilities of Sandin until further notice. Sandin was also reassigned to the Naval Service Training Command headquarters.
On June 8, the Commanding officer of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137, Commander Matthew McCormick, was relieved of duty by the Commander of Carrier Air Wing 1, Captain Patrick Hourigan, because of a loss of confidence in his ability to command. VAQ 137, commonly known as “The Rooks,” is deployed as part of the USS Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group.
McCormick will temporarily be replaced by Executive Officer of VAQ-137 Commander Scott Maynes. Furthermore, McCormick was revealed to be reassigned to serve at Naval Station Whidbey Island with the Electronic Attack Wing Pacific (VAQWINGPAC).
All of these firings came as a result of a “loss of confidence” except for Lesaca. Further details regarding the firing of these top naval officers could not be found. The Navy also emphasizes that these disciplinary actions were not taken lightly as they were done carefully, following procedure for each case. This was also done to avoid interfering with their respective unit’s duties and responsibilities.
Prior to these firings, there were also a couple of top Navy officers that were removed from their posts. On May 31, the Navy published a press release stating that Commanding Officer of the Naval Justice School (NJS) Captain Amy Larson along with Executive Officer of the Naval Justice School Lt. Col. Bret Swaim was relieved of duty by Commander of the Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC) Rear Adm. David G. Wilson. They were fired following an assessment of the “current NJS climate, but the Navy said that they were not involved in any form of misconduct.
Deputy Commander of the NLSC Capt. Mark Klein was assigned as the interim commanding officer and the Judge Advocate General’s special assistant for training. NJS Operations Officer Commander Abigail Myers was assigned as the acting executive officer at that time.
On May 10, the commanding officer of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 Cmdr. Brett Johnson was relieved of duty by the Commander of the Helicopter Sea Combat Wing, Capt. Ryan Keys. Cmdr. Colleen Minihan temporarily assumed duties as the commanding officer.
Interestingly, all of these firings were not related to violations of the Navy’s COVID-19 policies as such, with one particular instance of a commander of a destroyer (left unnamed) being relieved of duty as he refused to take a COVID-19 vaccine, which the Navy requires. He was later reassigned as a Florida judge ruled that the Navy could not do anything to remove a commander in those instances. This unnamed commander reportedly went to work while showing symptoms of COVID019, thus violating the service rules for COVID-19 mitigation.
SOFREP will be on the lookout for more updates regarding the recent firings of these top naval officials.