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Navy destroyer USS John Finn’s executive officer fired along with ship’s captain

Both firings followed a command investigation.
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Jonathan Zang
Navy Cmdr. Jonathan Zang was fired as the destroyer USS John Finn's executive officer along with the ship's commanding officer, Cmdr. Angela Gonzales. (U.S. Navy photo)

Navy Cmdr. Jonathan Zang has been fired as the USS John Finn’s executive officer following a command investigation, a Navy spokesman confirmed.

On May 20, the Navy announced that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Angela Gonzales, had been fired, but the service’s news release made no mention of Zang.

Navy Times first reported on Tuesday that both Gonzales and Zang had been relieved of command.

Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, fired Zang and Gonzales “due to a loss of confidence in their ability to fulfill their responsibilities in leading the ship,” Cmdr. Hayley Sims, a 7th Fleet spokeswoman, told Task & Purpose on Tuesday.

“There was a command investigation and the findings of the investigation informed Vice Adm. Thomas’ decision to relieve the commanding officer and executive officer,” Sims said. 

Sims did not specify what prompted the command investigation or exactly why Thomas felt that Zang and Gonzales could no longer carry out their leadership responsibilities aboard the John Finn.

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The military branches often use the term “loss of confidence” to explain why officers and enlisted leaders are relieved without providing any additional details. Media outlets can file Freedom of Information Act requests to find out the reasons behind a commander’s firing, but the process typically takes months or longer.

“The U.S. Navy holds its leaders to very high standards and will hold leaders accountable when those standards are not met,” Sims said. “The removal of the commanding officer and executive officer is an administrative action. It would be inappropriate to discuss possible future actions at this time.”

Zang was commissioned in 2006 through the University of Michigan’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, according to his official biography. He earned an undergraduate degree in history and a master’s degree in finance from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

He previously served as the auxiliary and electrical officer aboard the cruiser USS Port Royal, the fire control officer on the destroyer, and as a department head on the destroyer USS Milius, where he was the ship’s weapons officer and combat systems officer.

Zang has deployed twice to the Arabian Gulf, once to the Indo-Pacific, and once off East Africa for counter-piracy efforts. His military awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. He has also served on ships that have received the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Navy “E” Ribbon.

When asked why the Navy did not mention that Zang had also been fired in its May 20  announcement about Gonzales, spokeswoman Cmdr. Jackie Pau responded that “the Navy publicly releases the names of commanding officers who have been relieved.”

Pau did not elaborate further.

No one else aboard the John Finn has been relieved, according to the Navy.

The John Finn has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan since March and is part of Commander, Task Force 71, and Destroyer Squadron 15.

Navy Cmdr. Matthew Hays and Cmdr. Andrew Tom are currently serving as the ship’s captain and executive officer respectively, according to the John Finn’s website.

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