YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -- The relieved executive officer of the USS Cowpens drove his car away from the ship after testing above the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol, Navy officials said Wednesday.
Cmdr. Armando Ramirez was found guilty of one count of drunken or reckless operation of a vehicle and one count of conduct unbecoming an officer at an Admiral's Mast hearing held Sept. 17. Such hearings are the equivalent of nonjudicial punishment in other services.
Ramirez was relieved the next day by ship commanding officer Capt. Scott Sciretta. Ramirez is at least the fifth senior leader to be removed from Cowpens since 2010 and the sixth to be punished for their actions.
Ramirez boarded Cowpens during Labor Day weekend to attend to ship business, said Lt. Rick Chernitzer, spokesman for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet in San Diego.
Ramirez hadn't been called in by anyone, Chernitzer said.
Sailors aboard the ship observed signs of intoxication in Ramirez. He voluntarily submitted to a breath test, which confirmed that his blood-alcohol level was over California's legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Ramirez was offered the chance to sleep on the ship but declined to do so.
“He chose instead to leave and drive his car, and that's what got him in trouble,” Chernitzer said.
The alcohol detection devices aboard Navy ships aren't considered evidentiary for use in court, according to the device's operating guide.
However, the incident did trigger a Judge Advocate General investigation and the subsequent administrative punishment.
Ramirez has been reassigned to Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet while the service determines the future of his career.
In June, Cowpens commanding officer Capt. Gregory W. Gombert was relieved after an investigation that panned his leadership. The ship's command master chief was also relieved, and the acting executive officer received nonjudicial punishment.
The ship's commanding officer was also relieved in 2012 following accusations of an extramarital affair. His predecessor was fired in 2010 after reports of verbally and physically abusing sailors under her command.