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USS Forrest Sherman commander fired over plans for AK-47 trophy, lawyer says

The commanding officer of the USS Forrest Sherman, shown here at Naval Station Norfolk in 2013, was relieved of duty this week. Photo by Mark A. Martinez/U.S. Navy
The commanding officer of the USS Forrest Sherman, shown here at Naval Station Norfolk in 2013, was relieved of duty this week. Photo by Mark A. Martinez/U.S. Navy

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The commander of the destroyer USS Forrest Sherman was relieved of duty this week, according to both the Navy and the officer's attorney.

A Navy press release said Cmdr. Frank Azzarello was relieved of duty Wednesday "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command."

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Tim Parlatore, Azzarello's attorney, told USNI News that the Navy had opened an investigation into the commander's plan to turn an AK-47 seized in a Middle East weapons raid into a plaque commemorating the seizure.

U.S. Second Fleet spokeswoman Cmdr. Ashley Hockycko said Azzarello is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service but did not elaborate.

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"He was trying to create something nice and good for the crew -- a morale booster for the men and women on the ship to commemorate their good work," Parlatore told Business Insider.

"It's not like he stole an enemy weapon to put into his personal collection or something," said Parlatore, who attended Surface Warfare Officer School with Azzarello.

U.S. law and military regulations outline specific guidelines for dealing with seized weapons. It's not necessarily illegal to claim a seized weapon as a trophy, but the guidelines must be followed.

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According to Parlatore, warship commanders rarely encounter such situations and Azzarello didn't have training on the protocols.

Parlatore argues his client should have been asked to redo the procedure for converting the assault rifle into a trophy rather than relieved of duty.

"To me, I think that this is going to be more damaging to recruiting and retention," Parlatore said. "What [Azzarello] did here is the kind of thing that, if he was my captain, I would have thought, 'What a great thing.'"

Neither Parlatore nor Hockycko could say whether Azzarello will receive further punishment for the plaque.

Azzarello had served as the vessel's commanding officer since September 2019 and was days away from a change-of-command ceremony.

Cmdr. Greg Page, assigned to Afloat Training Group Atlantic, will assume Azzarello's duties as commanding officer.

The Forrest Sherman was one of two ships celebrated for 2019 and 2020 arms seizures, which included the seizure of a new type of Iranian missile.

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