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Carrier Captain Is Relieved of Command

September 04, 2002|From Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The captain of an aircraft carrier stationed in Japan was removed from command due to "a loss of confidence" in his ability to lead, the U.S. Navy said Tuesday.

Capt. Thomas A. Hejl, commanding officer of the Kitty Hawk, the only aircraft carrier based in Japan, was temporarily transferred to an administrative position in San Diego.

Vice Adm. Robert F. Willard made the unusual decision "due to a loss of confidence in Capt. Hejl's ability to lead his crew and carry out essential missions and taskings," the Navy's 7th Fleet in Bahrain said in a news release.

"The United States is engaged in a global war against terrorism, and it is vital that our forward deployed ships be ready to carry out our nation's taskings when ordered," the Navy said.

A 7th Fleet spokesman said that a series of events led to Hejl's removal.

The 41-year-old carrier failed an engineering assessment last week that must be passed before it can return to sea. Earlier this year, the Kitty Hawk also struck a buoy in Singapore, causing damage to the carrier and prompting a reprimand from the commander of the carrier battle group.

Hejl will be succeeded by Capt. Robert Barbaree Jr., the commanding officer of the Seattle and a former executive officer of a San Diego-based aircraft carrier, the Nimitz.

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