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Cruiser CO, CMC canned for poor performance

Jun. 10, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Capt. Gregory Gombert was fired Tuesday as skipper of the cruiser Cowpens.
Capt. Gregory Gombert was fired Tuesday as skipper of the cruiser Cowpens. (Navy)
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Navy officials fired the commanding officer and command master chief of the San Diego-based cruiser Cowpens on Tuesday for poor performance in a number of inspections and visits — a highly unusual move that came only two months after the ship returned from a seven-month Western Pacific deployment.

Capt. Gregory Gombert and Command Master Chief Gabriel Keeton were removed as the skipper and CMC, respectively, on Tuesday by Rear Adm. Michael Smith, the head of Carrier Strike Group 3, Naval Surface Forces said in a Tuesday press release.

“The loss of confidence stems from the results of a series of inspections following the ship’s return from deployment,” SURFOR said in the news release. “An investigation is underway.”

Gombert is the third Cowpens CO fired in four years, a streak of command problems that started with then-Capt. Holly Graf, who was canned for “cruelty” towards her crew in 2010. Capt. Robert Marin was fired in 2012 for “inappropriate personal behavior.”

Gombert, a University of Notre Dame grad, has served aboard the nuclear-powered cruiser Truxtun, the destroyer Russell, and the frigates Halyburton and Crommelin. He commanded the destroyer Gridley, taking it on two deployments, including its maiden voyage, his official bio said.

Gombert has received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four Meritorious Service Medals, five Navy Commendation Medals, and two Navy Achievement Medals, as well as other awards.

Gombert, who was reassigned to the CSG 3 staff, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday. Keeton has been reassigned to the staff of Naval Surface Force Pacific and also did not immediately reply to a message.

Capt. Robert Chadwick has been named the Cowpens’ interim CO, and Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Richard Putnam will temporarily step into the command master chief spot.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the command that Keeton has been reassigned to.

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