The new commander of the US 7th Fleet arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, on August 25, two days after assuming command.
Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer is taking over from three-star admiral Joseph Aucoin who was relieved from his post after US destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with oil tanker Alnic MC on Monday, August 21.
Prior to arrival, he participated in the International Maritime Security Symposium hosted by the Indonesian Navy in Bali, Indonesia.
A career submariner, Sawyer has extensive experience as a commander in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. His most recent assignment was deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Before that, he was commander, U.S. Submarine Forces Pacific, also in Hawaii; and commander, Submarine Group 7/ Task Force 54 and 74 in Yokosuka. His afloat commands were USS La Jolla (SSN 701) and Submarine Squadron 15 in Guam.
A Phoenix native, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering. He received a Master of Engineering Management from Old Dominion University.
US 7th Fleet incidents
Sawyer replaced Aucoin who was relieved from his position following a series of incidents, including two fatal ones.
Ten sailors lost their lives when USS John S. McCain collided with oil tanker Alnic MC east of the Strait of Malacca and Singapore on Monday, August 21.
Significant damage to the McCain’s hull resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery and communications rooms. Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding.
Less than two months ago, seven US sailors lost their lives in another collision between a US destroyer and a merchant ship. USS Fitzgerald collided with Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan On July 17 and will have to be transported back to the US for repairs.
The two fatal incidents were the third and fourth incident involving US Navy ships. On January 31, cruiser USS Antietam, forward-deployed to the 7th Fleet, ran aground in waters near Yokosuka, while USS Champlain collided with a fishing vessel in the Sea of Japan on May 9.
In response to the incidents, chief of naval operations Adm. John Richardson directed the navy to take an “operational pause” in all of its fleets around the world, to allow fleet commanders to assess and review with their commands the fundamental practice to safe and effective operations.
In addition to the operational pause, Richardson said he directed a more comprehensive review to find the contributing factors and root causes of the incidents.