Was the Relief of a Navy Admiral Benghazi-Related?
The Navy announced Saturday that Rear Admiral Charles M. Gaouette, commander of the John C. Stennis aircraft carrier task force out of Bremerton, Washington, was relieved of his command. According to the Navy, the Admiral was relieved pending an investigation into matters concerning his professional judgment, rather than his personal conduct.
The story comes on the heels of the news of General Carter Ham’s replacement as AFRICOM commander. There has been some speculation – as yet unconfirmed – that General Ham was relieved of his command because he intended to send a rescue mission to the U.S. consulate facility in Benghazi, where the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed by a terrorist force in a 7-hour firefight on September 11th and 12th.
We are not speculating on whether General Ham was temporarily relieved under those circumstances or not. I can find no reliable confirmation of that account and I will not link to it until I do.
Based on press releases and other information from AFRICOM’s web site, General Ham is still in command, performing duties.
However, Rear Admiral Gauoette’s dismissal does not appear to us to be related to Benghazi.
The timeline and geography simply do not support any circumstantial assertion that Gauoette was involved in any way with Benghazi. The Stennis group is in the Persian Gulf area. The most direct route to the Persian Gulf area from Bremerton, WA does not take the group through the Mediterranean. The Stennis operates with the Navy’s 5th fleet. It’s the 6th Fleet that normally stations in the Mediterranean. Further, the Stennis group did not arrive on station in the Persian Gulf region until October. It was not anywhere near Libya on the 11th of September. Gauoette would not have been in a position to have any influence on the Benghazi attack. Indeed, concurrent reporting indicates that Carrier Strike Force Three, with the USS John C. Stennis, was actually participating in the Operation Valiant Shield exercises near Guam in September.
According to Wikipedia, the Stennis Battlegroup consists of the following ships:
- USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74)
- USS Dewey (DDG-105)
- USS Kidd (DDG-100)
- USS Milius (DDG-69)
- USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108)
- USS Mobile Bay (CG-53)
- USNS Bridge (T-AOE-10)
Rear Adm. Gauoette is being transferred back to Bremerton for shore duties until the results of an investigation are complete. His Chief of Staff, Capt. Captain William C. Minter, will take over as the acting strike force commander until the arrival of Rear Admiral Troy M. (“Mike”) Shoemaker, who has been named the permanent commander of Carrier Strike Force Three.
Captain William C. Minter, will lead the strike group until the arrival of Rear Admiral Troy M. (“Mike”) Shoemaker.
General David Rodriguez, the current head of FORSCOM, was nominated to succeed General Ham as the AFRICOM commander. He must still be confirmed by the Senate.
General Ham, incidentally, is not a West Point graduate. Rather, he is the senior ROTC graduate in the Army on duty today.