Navy Sacks Second Submarine Commander in 5 Days

A crewmember of the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, USS Florida (SSGN 728), heaves a line ashore as she arrives for a port visit on the island of Crete. (U.S. Navy/Paul Farley)
A crewmember of the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, USS Florida (SSGN 728), heaves a line ashore as she arrives for a port visit on the island of Crete. (U.S. Navy/Paul Farley)

The commanding officer of the second submarine to integrate women into its previously all-male crews has been removed from his job, Navy leaders announced Friday.

Capt. Gregory Kercher, who led the guided-missile submarine Florida's Gold crew, was relieved of his duties due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command, said Cmdr. Sarah Self-Kyler, a spokeswoman for Commander, Submarine Forces.

Kercher was not under investigation, she added.

Vice Adm. Chas Richard, commander of Submarine Forces, relieved Kercher of his duties. Kercher, who'd taken command of the Florida Gold crew in September 2017, was temporarily reassigned to Submarine Group 10 out of Kings Bay, Georgia, where the Florida is based.

Kercher is the second submarine commanding officer to be relieved of his duties this week. On Monday, Cmdr. Travis Zettel with the fast-attack submarine Bremerton was removed from his job amid an ongoing investigation.

The Florida's two crews -- blue and gold -- were the first East Coast submarine crews to integrate women after the Navy lifted its ban on female sailors serving on subs in 2010.

Kercher told the Florida-Times Union in February that he'd spent time on an Australian submarine in 2006 with a coed crew. Navy submarine crews, he added, benefited from the service's careful approach to gender integration.

"If we tried to do this 15 to 20 years ago in a sudden manner, I think it would have been difficult," Kercher told the paper. "We wouldn't have been prepared for it, and it probably wouldn't have went off as seamless as it has."

When Kercher assumed command, he told the Florida Gold crew he had just one role as their commanding officer.

"To lead you as we prepare our great warship to return to the fight and conduct vital operations," he said, according to a Navy news release. "We will do this wherever and whenever called upon in support of our nation's interests, and we will do so to the very best of our capabilities."

Capt. Michael Badorf has assumed command of Florida (Gold) until a permanent relief is identified, according to Navy officials. Badorf previously commanded the guided-missile submarine Georgia and fast-attack submarine Albuquerque and was serving as the deputy for training at Submarine Squadron 16.

--Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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