XO of USS Cowpens Relieved After Alcohol-Related Incident

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -- The executive officer of the cruiser USS Cowpens has been relieved, making him at least the fifth senior leader in four years to be removed from the ship.

Cmdr. Armando Ramirez was relieved Sept. 18 by commanding officer Capt. Scott Sciretta due to an alcohol-related incident, according to a Navy statement. Service officials declined to provide further detail on the incident.

Ramirez has been reassigned to Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Relieved officers are generally assigned to a headquarters command while the process determining the fate of their career unfolds.

Cmdr. Justin Harts will take over as executive officer for Cowpens, according to the statement.

In June, Cowpens commanding officer Capt. Gregory W. Gombert and Command Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton were relieved for loss of confidence in their "ability to effectively lead and carry out their assigned duties," according to a prior Navy statement.

An investigation report later found that Gombert rarely left his cabin during a deployment "for more than a few minutes a day," for a period of somewhere between three weeks and two months, according to sailors interviewed in the report. Gombert, along with his acting executive officer at the time, were also disciplined at July administrative hearings.

In December, Cowpens and a Chinese navy vessel had a tense encounter in the South China Sea that required the U.S. ship to avoid a collision.

The reliefs in recent months have continued a pattern of leadership troubles for the ship, which was based at Yokosuka before moving to San Diego last year.

In Feb. 2012, commanding officer Robert Marin was relieved following reports of an extramarital affair. Before Marin, Capt. Holly Graf was relieved in 2010, after an investigation found that she had verbally and physically abused sailors under command.

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