Following a thorough investigation into the June 17 collision between destroyer USS Fitzgerald and a commercial tanker, the US Navy has determined that the destroyer’s poor leadership is responsible for the collision.
On August 18, the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) were relieved of their duties by Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, Commander, Seventh Fleet, while a number of officer and enlisted watch standers were held accountable.
The navy said the collision was avoidable and both USS Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal demonstrated poor seamanship.
Within Fitzgerald, flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership contributed to the collision that claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald sailors, injured three more, and damaged both ships.
USS Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson was relieved due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead. He had previously been temporarily relieved of his duties due to medical reasons from injuries sustained during the collision. Cmdr. Benson is being reassigned to Naval District Washington at the Washington Navy Yard, where he will have access to medical facilities in the area.
The navy added that inadequate leadership by the executive officer, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, and command master chief, Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin, contributed to the lack of watch stander preparedness and readiness that was evident in the events leading up to the collision.
Several junior officers were relieved of their duties due to poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information center watch standers. Additional administrative actions were taken against members of both watch teams.
Cmdr. Garret Miller will assume command from Fitzgerald’s acting commanding officer, Cmdr. John “Jack” Fay sometime mid-to-late-August.
The navy further said that the entire Fitzgerald crew demonstrated real toughness that night responding with urgency, determination and creativity to save their ship. Their rigorous damage control efforts and dauntless fighting in the immediate wake of the accident prevented further loss of life.