The Navy will allow the former commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer Fitzgerald to retire at his current rank and with all his benefits intact.
Cmdr. Bryce Benson was informed last week of the decision, which will see him medically retire and leave the service on Dec. 29, according to a copy of his orders provided by attorney Cmdr. Justin Henderson.
ProPublica first reported this week that officials had approved Benson’s retirement, more than two years after the Fitz’s June 17, 2017 collision with a merchant vessel off Japan killed seven crew members and left Benson with a head injury.
“Your dedicated service to the Navy and your country is deeply appreciated,” the orders state. “May you enjoy every success and happiness in the future.”
It’s the latest twist in the case of Benson, who learned in September that he would appear before a panel convened to determine whether he should be punitively removed from the sea service for his role in the collision.
Benson learned earlier this month that he would not have to go before a Board of Inquiry after all.
Superiors administratively disciplined Benson after the collision and he was charged in early 2018 with negligent homicide in the death of seven shipmates, but military prosecutors withdrew those charges six months later.
Dogged by allegations that senior Navy leaders wielded unlawful command influence to keep Benson from getting a fair trial, prosecutors dropped dereliction of duty and hazarding a vessel charges seven months ago.
Benson’s quarters suffered a direct hit when the ACX Crystal cargo ship plowed into the destroyer’s starboard.
ProPublica’s report on Benson’s story this week reveals for the first time that the Navy initially did not let him leave Japan to begin treatment at Walter Reed.
Doctors at Yokosuka, Japan, had determined the officer need neurological and mental health treatment at Walter Reed, services they could not provide there.
Benson finally entered Walter Reed nine weeks after the overseas doctor recommendation, ProPublica reported.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.