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UPDATED JULY 20, 11:59 A.M.

NAPLES, Italy — For the 14th time this year, the Navy has fired a commanding officer, less than a week before an Aug. 1 deadline for Navy leaders to sign a memo stating they understand their obligations as CO’s.

Cmdr. Karl Pugh, commander of the deployed Electronic Attack Squadron 141, was relieved of command Tuesday in connection with an “alcohol-related incident” on July 12 during a port visit to Manama, Bahrain, according to U.S. Navy 5th Fleet.

Besides being the 14th CO relieved of command in 2011, Pugh is the third Navy air squadron commander to be relieved this year and the second for an alcohol-related incident.

Cmdr. Timothy Murphy was removed as commander of Electronic Attack Squadron 129 on April 11 for drunken driving.

VAQ-141 executive officer Cmdr. Michael J. Miller has assumed command of the squadron, which is deployed with the USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group.

Pugh is being reassigned to the squadron’s home at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., according to 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Frederick Martin.

Martin said in an email Wednesday that Pugh was relieved of command after nonjudicial punishment proceedings, and that no more information about the incident will be released due to privacy issues.

As the tally of COs relieved of command approaches last year’s total of 17, all commanders and flag officers have until Aug. 1 to sign a memo by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead emphasizing the responsibility of commanders to uphold “the highest standards of personal and professional conduct at all times.”

Roughead’s memo, titled “The Charge of Command,” did not directly address the issue of those who have been relieved of command, but called on prospective commanding officers to remember what their position requires.

“Included as a part of your responsibilities is the charge that you will be held accountable to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” Roughead writes in the June 9 memo, dated three days after Cmdr. Mike Varney was relieved of command on the Seawolf-class attack submarine Connecticut following an investigation that found he obstructed an inquiry into mishandling of classified material.

“Indeed, meeting these standards of conduct is as critical as meeting our high standards of material, personnel, and operational readiness,” Roughead’s memo reads.

The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, followed this up with a June 11 directive to Navy leaders mandating that all commanders review and sign Roughead’s memo with their subordinate commanders and commanding officers by Aug. 1, according to a copy of the directive.

Prospective CO’s will review the document with their chain of command, and will provide their superiors with a signed copy to be kept during their command tour, the directive states.

After Aug. 1, the Roughead memo will be included as part of training received by prospective CO’s at the Navy’s Command Leadership School in Newport, R.I., according to the Greenert directive.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Casey Coane, now executive director of the Association of the United States Navy, said the removals, while troubling, represent only an “extremely small” percentage of CO’s on the job today.

“It’s extremely healthy that the Navy sets very high standards and holds its people accountable,” said Coane, who retired in 2002. “If they don’t set standards and make them important, they’re not important.”

But the nature of the removals is cause for concern, he said.

“It’s one thing if a commanding officer fails in his mission because he doesn’t understand something technical,” Coane said. “We didn’t train him right in the technical world.”

But the fact that most of the infractions concern lapses of judgment and character is troubling, he said, adding that perhaps the right model was not set for these officers when they were juniors.

“That gives us all concern,” Coane said. “Suddenly, they’re in charge of a large Navy vessel … and for whatever reason, they have a lapse of judgment.”

Geoffz@estripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @Stripes_GeoffZ


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