YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The captain of the USS Gary was relieved of command Friday “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” according to a U.S. 7th Fleet press release.

Cmdr. Tito Dua, captain of the Gary, was relieved by Capt. Samuel Perez, commander of Destroyer Squadron 15.

Cmdr. Scott Gureck, a 7th Fleet spokesman, said Saturday he could not comment on the reason for Perez’s loss of confidence in Dua. “The bottom line is any commanding officer has to have trust and confidence in those subordinates around him,” Gureck said.

Dua also said he preferred not to comment, either on the loss of his command or what was next for him. “I really don’t have a lot of answers right now,” he said Saturday.

The decision to fire Dua, 41, apparently was made recently. He was scheduled for a change-of-command ceremony on Jan. 12.

Cmdr. Robert Marin becomes captain of the frigate on that date, as originally was scheduled. Meanwhile, Cmdr. Henry Derbes, formerly on staff at Destroyer Squadron 15, has assumed command.

This is the third 7th Fleet commander to be fired in 15 months. In February, Rear Adm. Steven Kunkle, the USS Kitty Hawk Battle Group commander, was relieved for engaging in an “inappropriate relationship” with a female officer. Kunkle also received a punitive letter of reprimand.

In September 2002, Capt. Thomas Hejl was dismissed as the Kitty Hawk commander for what superiors said was a breakdown in the ship’s proficiency and crew readiness. Incidents including the ship’s hitting a buoy and failing an engineering plant assessment led to that conclusion, as did a lack of confidence that the crew knew proper procedures and highly-publicized crimes committed by Kitty Hawk sailors, officials said.

Losing a command is usually a severe career blow.

Dua’s former ship was featured in a news story last spring in which some of the Gary’s 250 sailors talked about the more personal, friendly pace aboard their frigate, as opposed to a carrier with its 5,500 people. The sailors said they sometimes fished for mahi mahi, enjoyed not shaving on Saturdays and baked pizzas on Friday. Each Wednesday, they said, they could wear bandanas and got time off from their duties, except for jobs necessary to keep the ship going.

Dua, who sent a weekly update e-mail to about 100 relatives of crewmembers, said in the story that he supported “lots of little things to keep the week going.”

A Gary officer reached Saturday declined to discuss why Dua had been relieved but said his ouster was “traumatic.”

A 1984 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Dua has spent much of his Navy career in Asia. He started as gunnery officer, machinery officer and main propulsions assistant on the USS Sterett, deployed in the Philippines, according to his biography on the 7th Fleet Web site.

In 1992, he served as combat systems officer aboard the USS Fife in Yokosuka; the Fife won an award for combat systems readiness that year. Next, he moved to combat systems officer and operations officer for Destroyer Squadron 15.

In 1998, he became executive officer of the USS Cushing, then served as South Asia political-military affairs desk officer for the 7th Fleet, aboard the USS Blue Ridge, before becoming the Gary’s captain on July 15, 2002.

Dua was born in Bareilly, India, and immigrated to the United States in 1964. He holds two master’s degrees, in business and national security affairs, and his awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (four awards) and the Navy Achievement Medal.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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