The commanding officer of a Naval medical command in Peru has been fired due to “a loss of confidence in her ability to command,” service officials announced on Friday. Capt. Abigail Yablonsky Marter was relieved of command of Naval Medical Research Unit SOUTH, or NAMRU SOUTH, on Friday by Capt. Franca Jones, head of Naval Medical Research Command, a Navy news release says.

A career nurse in the Navy, Marter assumed command of Naval Medical Research Unit SOUTH in July, the news release says. She will be temporarily reassigned to Naval Medical Research Command.

Based in Lima, Peru, NAMRU SOUTH researches potentially fatal infectious diseases in Central America including malaria, dengue fever, diarrheal diseases, sexually transmitted infections. The unit also monitors antimicrobial resistance.

The Navy’s news release does not include any specific information about why Marter was fired.

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“After an investigation, Capt. Abigail Yablonsky Marter was relieved due to a loss of confidence in her ability to command,” Cmdr. Jessica McNulty, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, told Task & Purpose on Friday.

“The Navy holds commanding officers to the highest standards of leadership, performance, and operational effectiveness,” McNulty continued. “When these leaders fall short of these high standards, the Navy holds them accountable. As a matter of policy, the Navy does not comment or speculate on any future or pending administrative or disciplinary actions.” 

The term “loss of confidence” is a euphemism that military branches use rather than specify why commanders have been relieved. Military commanding officers and senior enlisted leaders can be fired for a variety of reasons, ranging from poor leadership or poor performance to personal issues unrelated to work but which a higher commander views as incompatible with command.

By not saying exactly why commanding officers have been fired, the military often creates an information vacuum that can be filled with conspiracy theories.

The Navy has relieved six commanding officers so far this year. Three of those officers were fired after being arrested off-base for driving under the influence, Task & Purpose has confirmed.

Finding out exactly why a commanding officer has been fired can take time. Media outlets can submit Freedom of Information Act requests to learn what prompted a commander to be relieved, but the process can take months, if not longer.

Task & Purpose will continue to seek information about what promoted military commanding officers to be fired to dispel disinformation.

UPDATE: 04/05/2024; this story was updated with comments from Navy Cmdr. Jessica McNulty, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

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