Navy Fires the Head of Its Only South American Command

NAMRU SOUTH, located in in Peru
NAMRU SOUTH, located in in Peru, is part of the Naval Medical Research & Development enterprise and conducts research on a range of infectious diseases of military and public health significance. (U.S. Navy photo by Monica Barrera/Released)

The Navy has relieved the commanding officer of its only command in South America, a statement released by the service announced Friday.

Capt. Abigail Yablonsky Marter, the commander of the Naval Medical Research Unit South, was relieved by Capt. Franca Jones, the commander of the Naval Medical Research Command, "due to a loss of confidence in her ability to command."

According to its website, NAMRU South operates at the Peruvian Navy's "flagship hospital base" in Callao, Peru, as well as a naval clinic in Iquitos, "at the invitation of the Peruvian Navy to address shared health science research interests."

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The command also runs a small laboratory located at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras.

Marter is at least the sixth firing of a Navy commanding officer in 2024.

Navy officials have previously said the sea service relieved 15 commanding officers in 2023. There are currently around 1,600 commanding officers in the active-duty Navy across all communities.

The Navy's statement did not offer any more information about why Marter was removed from leadership, outside of the boilerplate "loss of confidence" remark.

A Navy official told that the relief was "performance related" and not tied to her conduct or behavior -- terms the Navy typically uses to describe commanders being relieved for behavior such as drunk driving.

According to a now-removed biography, Marter's Navy career began in 1996 as a labor and delivery nurse at Naval Medical Center San Diego. She also served at hospitals in Japan and Virginia. She went on to earn a master's degree in 2007 and a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Virginia in 2015.

Prior to taking command of NAMRU South in July 2023, Marter was the deputy commander of the Naval Medical Research Command, where she oversaw eight research commands and more than 1,300 staffers.

The biography says that she is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. Her awards include two Meritorious Service Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.

The Navy's statement said that Cmdr. Michael Prouty will stand in as the acting commanding officer until a permanent replacement is named. Meanwhile, Marter will be temporarily reassigned to Naval Medical Research Command.

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