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Naval Academy grad assumes command of 7th Fleet after collision

By RACHAEL PACELLA | The Baltimore Sun (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 23, 2017

A 1983 graduate of the Naval Academy has assumed command of the U.S. 7th Fleet after military officials dismissed Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin on Wednesday due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.

Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, who graduated from the academy with a bachelor of science degree in systems engineering, will assume command immediately, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a short statement.

The U.S. 7th Fleet is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and at any given time includes between 50 and 70 ships and submarines, as well as 140 aircraft and roughly 20,000 sailors, according to the fleet’s webpage.

Sawyer was nominated and approved for the position and a promotion to vice admiral earlier this year. Aucoin was set to retire in September.

The change comes days after a guided-missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, collided with an oil tanker near Singapore, ripping a hole in the destroyer’s hull. After the collision, 10 sailors were reported missing, and officials said later the remains of some sailors had been found inside a flooded compartment on the vessel.

It is the second fatal collision involving a U.S. 7th Fleet ship in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided off of Japan.

In a short statement Wednesday, officials announced that Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, relieved Aucoin due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.

Sawyer, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, also has a master's degree in engineering management from Old Dominion University.

He is a career submarine officer, according to his Navy biography. In September 2015, he became deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Phillip G. Sawyer.
U.S. NAVY PHOTO

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