7th Fleet Commander Relieved, Search Area Expands For USS John S. McCain Sailors


Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, Wednesday relieved the commander of Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command, according to a Navy press statement.

Rear Adm. Phil Sawyer, who has already been nominated and confirmed for the position and promotion to vice admiral, will assume command immediately, the Navy said.

Aucoin was relieved of command after four accidents involving Navy ships in the Pacific this year, the latest being the collision involving the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain with the merchant vessel Alnic MC on August 21.

In a separate press release, the search for missing sailors assigned to the USS John S. McCain continues in the South China Sea and within the ship itself.

On Tuesday, Adm. Scott Swift, commander, Pacific Fleet, announced that the remains of a number of the 10 missing John S. McCain Sailors were discovered within the ship.

On Wednesday, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers continue to search the ship, seeking to locate more of the missing Sailors. In addition, they are conducting inspections of the damage to inform repair plans. More divers will join the effort Aug. 24.

At sea, search efforts are focused on an area east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore where the USS John S. McCain was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic. The area centers around the point of collision, and is expanding to encompass a greater area as time goes on.

On Tuesday, the Royal Malaysian Navy discovered the potential remains of a missing Sailor while searching the area. The remains were transferred to the U.S. Navy where efforts are underway to determine identification.

Both the RMN and the Republic of Singapore Navy continue to assist the U.S. Navy in the search. Those efforts on Wednesday, involved RSN ships Gallant and Fearless, RMN ship Leiku and two SH-60S helicopters from USS America (LHA 6).

The incident will be investigated to determine the facts and circumstances of the collision, the Navy said.

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