For the third time this year, the Marine Corps has fired an aviation squadron commander.
Lt. Col. Michael E. Hernandez was relieved of command of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 11 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, on Friday, according to a 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing news release.
"This decision was based strictly on performance," the news release says. "No misconduct was involved."
Hernandez's firing comes at a time of growing concern about the safety and readiness of Marine aviation, which has suffered a series of mishaps this year.
Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, fired Hernandez "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to continue to lead," according to the news release, which did not elaborate on what exactly prompted Wise to lose confidence in Hernandez.
Capt. Kurt Stahl, a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, stressed that Hernandez is not under investigation for any alleged wrongdoing.
"There was no investigation nor will there be," said Stahl, who reiterated that Wise's decision to relieve Hernandez was based solely on performance.
Marine aviation has had a brutal year with reports that years of combat deployments and budget cuts have left many Marine Corps aircraft unable to fly. In June, the Marines announced they were taking F/A-18 Hornets out of storage to help fix the aviation readiness crisis. The Pentagon's internal watchdog is conducting an audit to see if Marine squadrons have enough flyable aircraft and proficient pilots.
Two other commanders in the aviation community have been relieved this year. Lt. Col. Armando Gonzalez was fired in April after a command investigation found he fostered a poisonous work environment within Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 in Yuma, Arizona.
In January, Lt. Col. Edward Pavelka was relieved of command of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 just three days before a deadly collision of two of the squadron's CH-53E Super Stallions, which killed 12 Marines. An investigation into the crash found that the squadron was completely dysfunctional leading up to the incident. On some days, none of the unit's helicopters could fly.
Hernandez was selected for command of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 11 in August 2013, according to his biography on the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing website. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1990 and completed recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in December 1996 after completing Officer Candidate School and later participated in efforts to support the destroyer Cole after the ship was attacked in October 2000. Hernandez deployed to Iraq in February 2007 and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in September 2013.
His military awards include the Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.