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U.S. Navy removes Pacific Fleet commander after deadly warship crashes

By
Ray Downs
Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet speaks during a press conference on June 16 after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant ship. Aucoin was removed from his post after a second major collision in the Pacific region this month. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet speaks during a press conference on June 16 after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant ship. Aucoin was removed from his post after a second major collision in the Pacific region this month. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- After two major warship collisions that killed several sailors, the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet commander was removed from his post Wednesday.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, current commander of 7th Fleet, was the three-star commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet based in Japan. Wednesday, he was relieved of command.

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Aucoin was set to retire in September. He was replaced effective immediately by Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, whose appointment to lead the South Pacific area fleet was already announced in May in anticipation of Aucoin's retirement.

The move to push Aucoin out comes days after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore. At least 10 soldiers went missing in the crash and some of their remains have been recovered.

The incident is under investigation.

The warship's collision was the second in about two months, after the USS Fitzgerald struck a Philippine-flagged container ship on June 17. That accident resulted in the deaths of seven U.S. sailors.

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