7th Fleet’s amphibious force gets new leader after shakeup over deadly collisions
By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 25, 2017
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The 7th Fleet’s amphibious force is getting a new commander after a leadership shakeup caused by a spate of accidents involving Navy ships in the Pacific.
Rear Adm. Charles “Brad” Cooper II is replacing Rear Adm. Marc Dalton as commander of the Okinawa-based Task Force 76/Expeditionary Strike Group Seven. The decision was announced Tuesday by Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.
Dalton left the job last month to take over Task Force 70, when its commander, Rear Adm. Charles Williams, was relieved after 17 sailors were killed in collisions involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain.
Williams and Destroyer Squadron 15 commander Capt. Jeffrey Bennett were both relieved by 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer “due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command,” the Navy said last month. Their ouster followed the removal of 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, also due to loss of confidence.
In January, the USS Antietam ran aground and spilled roughly 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fluid into Tokyo Bay. In May, the USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing boat while operating off the east coast of the divided peninsula. In June, a collision between the Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged merchant ship killed seven sailors. In August, a collision between the McCain and a civilian merchant vessel killed 10 sailors.
Task Force 76 is the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. It is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa; however, most of its ships are homeported in Sasebo, Japan. Those vessels usually sail from the Japanese mainland to Okinawa where they onload Marines before heading out on patrol.
Cooper, who previously served as commander of Naval Forces Korea, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1989. His previous tours include serving as flag aide to the commander of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, the operations officer on the Fitzgerald and commanding officer on both the USS Russell and USS Gettysburg.