Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Captain Takes over aboard USS Kennedy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Captain Takes over aboard USS Kennedy

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY PIATT, The Times-Union

Navy Capt. John W. Miller flew in from the Pentagon and took the helm of the Jacksonville-based USS John F. Kennedy on Friday without the usual pomp of a change of command ceremony.

In a low-key transfer of command, Miller, who worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, became the Kennedy's second skipper in three years to take over the aircraft carrier after its previous captain was pulled from command.

The Navy announced Thursday that Vice Adm. Donald Nichols Jr. had removed Capt. Stephen Squires after the carrier collided with a dhow, sinking the small wooden boat in the Persian Gulf last month.

"After reviewing the investigation, [Nichols] thought it appropriate to relieve him," said Cmdr. Jamie Graybeal, spokesman for the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet, in a phone interview Friday. But the investigation isn't finished yet, and Graybeal wouldn't comment on the details of it.

He added that the investigation, now turned over to the Kennedy Strike Group commander, Rear Adm. Donald Bullard, could lead to other actions. Nichols removed Squires under administrative action but not under disciplinary action, meaning for now he will not face court-martial.

There are different options that could happen, said Graybeal, who didn't want to speculate on those options. Because the investigation is incomplete, other Kennedy officers could face action but that wasn't a sure thing, Graybeal said.

After Bullard reads the report, it will be run up the chain of command and reviewed, Graybeal said.

The investigation could reach as high as Fleet Forces Command and the chief of naval operations, Adm. Vern Clark. But Graybeal declined to speculate which commands would review the investigation, conducted by Rear Adm. Evan Chanik, director of programming division for the chief of naval operations.

Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet, said after Bullard, whose command is based at Mayport, looks at the investigation there will be "a final endorser. …

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