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Navy dropping charges against USS Fitzgerald’s former CO and tactical action officer for collision
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer will dismiss all charges against the former captain of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the tactical action officer during a collision two years ago that killed seven sailors.
"At the recommendation of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer will issue a Secretarial Letter of Censure to USS Fitzgerald former commanding officer Cmdr. Bryce Benson and former crew member Lt. Natalie Combs," the Navy announced late on Wednesday.
The Navy offered no explanation about why charges against the two officers will be dismissed; the service's attempts to prosecute Benson had already fallen apart.
Although he was not on the bridge at the time of the June 2017, Benson was initially been charged with negligent homicide; however, that charge was dropped in June. Then a military judge ruled in January that the charges against Benson had been improperly referred to court-martial and disqualified the admiral overseeing the trial.
"Despite a relentless messaging campaign insisting ships' commanding officers are strictly liable for all operational risks, the Navy never tested that concept in court," said Benson's attorney Cmdr. Justin Henderson. "For good reason: It's untenable, legally and factually. These charges against Cmdr. Benson never had merit."
However, Henderson excoriated the Navy for issuing Benson a secretarial letter of censure without due process. "So in that sense, it fits the Navy's approach to accountability for the Fitzgerald collision," he said.
Combs' attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Fitzgerald case and a separate collision involving the destroyer USS John S. McCain in 2017 revealed crews in 7th Fleet were undermanned, undertrained, and overtaxed. The Navy has since increased the crew size for destroyers, but it still needs to fill 6,200 sea billets to be fully manned.
ProPublica reported in February that Adm. Philip Davidson, now head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, warned skippers shortly after the two collisions that if they did not feel their ships were ready to deploy, they would be replaced.
Davidson also raised eyebrows in February with his unique response to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who pressed him on what the Navy could have done to prevent the two deadly collisions.
"We can't forget one other thing," Davidson said. "These two collisions were a tragedy, there's no doubt about it. And all of the senior leadership of the Navy feels an immense amount of accountability for that, I'll come back to it. But the fact of the matter is 280-odd other ships weren't having collisions."
WATCH NEXT: Adm. Davidson on ship collisions
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that no U.S. troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria and the United States "is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from northeastern Syria."
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Friday said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, insisting that a planned "safe zone" will extend much further than U.S. officials said was covered under a fragile ceasefire deal.
On Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference, Army families had the opportunity to tell senior leaders exactly what was going on in their worlds — an opportunity that is, unfortunately, all too rare.
A new documentary series about Clint Lorance pits the infantry officer convicted of murder against his former soldiers
The fog of war, just kills, and war crimes are the focus of a new documentary series coming to STARZ. Titled Leavenworth, the five-part series profiles 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, the Army infantry officer who was convicted on murder charges for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, killing two and wounding the third, while deployed to the Zhari district in Kandahar province, on July 2, 2012.
A big stereotype surrounding U.S. service members and veterans is that they are defined only by their military service, from buying "Dysfunctional Veteran" t-shirts to playing hard-boiled, high-octane first-person shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty (we honestly have no idea where anyone could get that impression).
But the folks at OSD (formerly called Operation Supply Drop), a non-profit veteran service organization that aims to help troops and vets connect with each other through free video games, service programs and other activities, recently found that most of the gamers they've served actually prefer less military-centric fare like sports games and fantasy RPGs.
CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (Reuters) - Shelling could be heard at the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday morning despite a five-day ceasefire agreed between Turkey and the United States, and Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Ankara aims to seize.
Reuters journalists at the border heard machine-gun fire and shelling and saw smoke rising from the Syrian border battlefield city of Ras al Ain, although the sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.
The truce, announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia withdraw from an area controlled by Turkish forces.
The SDF said air and artillery attacks continued to target its positions and civilian targets in Ral al Ain.
"Turkey is violating the ceasefire agreement by continuing to attack the town since last night," SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted.
The Kurdish-led administration in the area said Turkish truce violations in Ras al Ain had caused casualties, without giving details.