Navy Relieved 12 Commanders in 6 Months — Including 3 Firings that Were Never Publicly Announced

The guided-missile submarine USS Ohio departs Apra Harbor in Guam
The guided-missile submarine USS Ohio departs Apra Harbor after completing a scheduled evolution in Guam, Jan. 24, 2021. (U.S. navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger)

The Navy has relieved 12 commanding officers so far in 2024 -- including three firings that have not previously been made public, according to information provided to by the service.

In addition to the nine publicly announced firings, Capt. Alex Dutko, manager of the Direct and Time Sensitive Strike program; Capt. Michael Meno, commander of Naval Construction Group 1; and Capt. David Wilson, commander of Naval Support Activity South Potomac, were also relieved of their commands in the past six months, a Navy spokesman said.

When asked about the three firings and why they were not made public, the Navy spokesman said that the sea service does not publicly announce reliefs that are not the result of a loss of the trust and confidence in the officers' ability to command.

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Loss of confidence is a boilerplate reason provided by the Navy that can encompass anything from issues with the way the commander is treating their crew to personal actions like drunken driving. However, commanders can also be relieved for medical reasons or ask to be relieved themselves, the Navy spokesman noted.

Navy officials have previously said the sea service relieved 15 commanding officers in 2023. There are currently around 1,600 commanding officers in the active-duty Navy across all communities.

Since the start of the year, the Navy has fired three commanders -- two submarine skippers and one SEAL commodore -- for drunk driving incidents.

Capt. Kurt Balagna, who commanded the USS Ohio sub's gold crew, was arrested March 5 by Washington state police for driving with a blood alcohol content of around 0.24% in a state with a legal limit of 0.08%.

Similarly, Capt. Richard Zaszewski, formerly commodore of Navy Special Warfare Group Eight, was arrested Jan. 19 for driving with a blood alcohol content between 0.15% and 0.2%.

Finally, also in January, the Navy fired the commander of the USS Georgia's blue crew -- Capt. Geoffry Patterson -- after he was arrested in the early hours of Jan. 9 on charges including driving under the influence and improper lane change.

Two of the 12 fired Navy commanders were chaplains assigned to the Coast Guard.

Capt. Daniel Mode, the Coast Guard's top chaplain who had served in that position since 2022, was fired in April after he failed to take action when he was made aware of sexual misconduct by another chaplain.

In May, the Coast Guard also fired Navy Cmdr. Cristiano DeSousa, the Seventh District Chaplain in Miami, Florida, with no explanation outside of the usual "loss of confidence in his abilities to fulfill the expectations of his position."

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