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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A Sasebo-based minesweeper ran aground Thursday off the coast of the Philippines, Navy officials said.

The USS Guardian, a 224-foot Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship with a crew of about 80, struck the Tubbataha Reef at 2:25 a.m. local time, according to a Navy statement. No one was injured and the cause of the grounding was under investigation.

The ship had been transiting the Sulu Sea between the southwest Philippines and Malaysia after a port visit to Subic Bay, the statement said. The ship was stuck about 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island.

“We’re making attempts to free the ship,” CTF-76 spokesman Lt. Brian Wierzbicki said Thursday afternoon, adding that no information on damage was immediately available.

The government of the Philippines was notified of the incident.

The Guardian is helmed by Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, a former instructor at the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer School. Rice arrived in Sasebo in October 2011 after serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom, according to his Navy biography. He had previously been the Guardian’s executive officer.

Often times, commanders are relieved of duty when incidents such as this occur.

Capt. Chuck Litchfield was fired from commanding the amphibious assault ship USS Essex last June after crashing into a refueling ship while en route from Sasebo to California.

On Aug. 30, Cmdr. Martin Arriola was fired from helming the USS Porter after the missile destroyer collided with a tanker in the Persian Gulf. Cmdr. Sara Santoski was fired from commanding Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 on Sept. 1 after two sailors died in a crash.

Twenty-five Navy commanding officers were relieved in 2012 and 23 the year before.

burkem@pstripes.osd.mil

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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