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The commanding officer of the USS Firebolt was relieved of command Thursday after the patrol coastal ship struck a buoy off the coast of Iraq.

Following a judge advocate general’s investigation, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael T. Sullivan was relieved by Capt. Kurt W. Tidd, commander of the Manama, Bahrain-based Destroyer Squadron Five Zero/Commander Task Force Fifty-Five.

The buoy tore a 3- to 4-inch gash in the ship’s hull, which sustained minor flooding in the Feb. 16 incident, said Cmdr. Jamie Graybeal, 5th Fleet spokesman, in a phone interview from Bahrain, where the Firebolt is in port.

No one else was punished, Graybeal said.

Tidd cited a loss of confidence in Sullivan’s ability to command.

Sullivan will be temporarily assigned to the staff of Commander Amphibious Group 2 at Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va.

Cmdr. Shan Byrne, chief staff officer for Destroyer Squadron Five Zero/Commander Task Force Fifty-Five, assumed command of the Firebolt, a 174-foot Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship.

Since the Firebolt deployed to Bahrain in February 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk, it has completed three crew swaps.

Tropic Lightning starts Afghan turnover

By Jason Chudy, Stars and StripesEuropean edition, Saturday, April 3, 2004

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Hundreds of soldiers from the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division have started turnover operations with the 10th Mountain Division, flying out to forward firebases earlier this week.

The 25th, known as Tropic Lightning, is sending about 4,500 soldiers to Afghanistan for a yearlong deployment. Another 4,000 soldiers from the 25th are on a yearlong deployment to Iraq.

Tropic Lightning soldiers started arriving in Afghanistan in mid-March. Their deployment should be complete by the end of April 2005, according to an e-mail from the division’s public affairs office.

As the units arrive, they will process in, which will include everything from filling out paperwork to weapons requalifications, before moving into the field.

“… [T]he relief in place of the 10th Mountain Division units here has already begun and will not be complete until this summer,” e-mailed Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty. “This is a deliberate phased operation designed to ensure that our operations here continue without interruption, without any diminution of capability.”

Capt. Daniel Beard, headquarters and headquarters company commander with the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, said the division’s soldiers are ready to start operations.

“The infantry is generally always on the aggressive side to get out and conduct missions,” he said.

“Yeah, they’re all ready,” said Staff Sgt. Gerardo Valle Colon, a supply specialist with the 25th’s Company B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, as he and dozens of other soldiers prepared to fly out to two firebases Wednesday.

“They’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” he said.

“I joined the infantry,” said Spc. Landis Mitchell before boarding a Company G, 104th Aviation Regiment Chinook helicopter for the flight to his firebase. “Some are nervous, but they’re excited.”

The division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team will have its headquarters at Kandahar and incorporate the 2-27th and the 2-35th Infantry.

Additional Tropic Lightning units deploying to Afghanistan include the 25th Aviation Brigade, division artillery, Division Support Command and division headquarters.

The support command and headquarters will be based at Bagram air base and the aviation brigade will operate from both Bagram and Kandahar

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