News Branch Navy

Navy fires USS Somerset’s commanding officer following investigation

Navy Capt. Michel Brandt was relieved as the USS Somerset’s commanding officer on June 6 following a command investigation.
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Navy Captain Michel Brandt fired
Navy Capt. Michel Brandt was relieved as the USS Somerset’s commanding officer on June 6 following a command investigation. (U.S. Navy photo)

Navy Capt. Michel Brandt, commanding officer of the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset, has been fired after an investigation “due to a loss of confidence in her ability to lead the crew,” the service announced on Friday. Brandt was relieved of command on Friday by Rear Adm. Christopher Stone, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7, a Navy news release says.

“Navy commanding officers are held to high standards of personal and professional conduct,” the news release says. “They are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards.”

Brandt was relieved following a command investigation, a Navy spokesperson told Task & Purpose on Friday, but no information about the investigation or its findings was immediately available.

The term “loss of confidence” is a boilerplate euphemism that all military branches use when an officer or senior enlisted leader is removed from their position. Media outlets can request more information about the circumstances behind a relief of command, but the process can take months, if not longer.

A total of 12 Navy commanding officers have been fired in 2024, a Navy spokesperson told Task & Purpose. The service relieved 16 commanding officers in 2023.

The reasons why commanding officers are fired vary, but they include issues such as having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, being a toxic leader, and non-work-related problems. At least three of the commanding officers whom the Navy fired this year had been arrested off-base for drunken driving.

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However when a military service fails to say exactly why a leader has been fired, it often gives rise to unfounded speculations and unfair conspiracy theories that can further damage a relieved leader’s reputation and later careers.

Brandt was commissioned through the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee in 1998, according to her Navy biography. She became a surface warfare officer two years later.

She has deployed six times, two of which were to the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  Her military awards include the Legion of Merit, three Defense Meritorious Service Medals, four Navy Commendation Medals, and three Navy Achievement Medals.

Brandt assumed command of the Somerset last July. The firing marks at least the third time an officer in charge of the Somerset has been relieved or punished.

In 2018, the ship’s captain was fired after an investigation found issues with the command climate on board.  The Somerset was also the launch and recovery ship in a deadly 2020 mishap that killed eight Marines and one sailor when a Marine amphibious assault vehicle flooded and sank in choppy waters off California.

The captain of the Somerset during that mission was given a letter of censure by the Secretary of the Navy. In 2023, that captain was selected to command an aircraft carrier, one of the Navy’s most esteemed positions, but his name was removed after the appointment became public.

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