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Amphib CO, XO fired in fraternization case

Dec. 11, 2009 - 01:34PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 11, 2009 - 01:34PM  |  
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The commanding officer of the dock landing ship Fort McHenry was fired Thursday for fraternizing with a sailor on his ship, according to a Navy statement.

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The commanding officer of the dock landing ship Fort McHenry was fired Thursday for fraternizing with a sailor on his ship, according to a Navy statement.

The executive officer also was fired for knowing about the relationship and not taking action, the statement said.

Cmdr. Christopher Stopyra and his XO, Lt. Cmdr. Brian P. Goldschmidt, were both removed after Stopyra received nonjudicial punishment at a captain's mast Thursday, the statement from Naval Surface Forces Atlantic said. The statement did not disclose the nature of the punishment.

"The relationship between the commanding officer and the subordinate caused an erosion of morale and good order and discipline among the officers and crew," Rear Adm. Michelle Howard, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 2, said in news release.

Stopyra, who had been in command since May 2009, was temporarily reassigned to a desk job with SurfLant. He was temporarily replaced by Capt. Skip Shaw pending arrival of the permanent replacement, the statement said.

Goldschmidt was also assigned to administrative duties, SurfLant spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Herb Josey said.

The subordinate with whom Stopyra had the relationship received non-judicial punishment and was removed from the ship, Josey said.

Fort McHenry returned to Norfolk on Tuesday after a seven-month deployment with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group.

In November, the Navy's inspector general received a complaint about Stopyra's relationship and it was investigated by the strike group commander, Josey said.

Stopyra's firing marks the 14th commanding officer relived this year, the most since 2003, when Navy leaders fired 26 skippers.

It was the second time in a week that the skipper of a ship recently back from deployment was fired for offenses involving fraternization.

On Dec. 4, the CO and command master chief of the destroyer James E. Williams were removed after five male chiefs were detached for fraternization. The CO and CMC for the Williams did not engage in fraternization, but were removed for permitting it among other sailors on their watch. Four female petty officers also were punished.

Adm. John Harvey, head of Fleet Forces Command, issued a rare public statement rebuking the Williams' leadership. "The responsibility of the commanding officer for his or her command is absolute," Harvey said Dec. 4.

Stopyra graduated from the Naval Academy. In late 2001, he deployed on the amphibious assault ship Bataan in support of the invasion of Afghanistan. He served as the executive officer of dock landing ship Carter Hall in 2004 and 2005, according to a Navy biography. He also served on the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel, which advises Congress and others about Navy policies.

Goldschmidt also graduated from the Naval Academy. He has served as the executive officer of the mine countermeasures ship Avenger, according to a Navy biography.

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