NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Cmdr. Fred R. Wilhelm was relieved as the Commanding Officer ofthe Little Creek-based amphibious dock landing ship USS GunstonHall (LSD 44), on Thursday, due to what the Navy called a loss ofconfidence in his ability to command.
The relief occurred during an Admiral's Mast and came after aninvestigation into allegations of sexual harassment, simpleassault, and conduct unbecoming an officer against Wilhelm.
Officials said Wilhelm had been reassigned to administrativeduties at COMNAVSURFLANT.
Captain Mark H. Scovill, recently the Deputy Commander,Amphibious Squadron Eight, was named the new CO of the GunstonHall. He will serve until the next Commanding Officer reports tothe ship in December.
The Navy said the ship's former executive officer (XO), Cmdr.Kevin S. Rafferty, and former command master chief (CMC), CMDCM(SS)Wayne Owings, who were onboard at the time the incidents occurred,also received non-judicial punishment at the Admiral's Mast forfailing to take action after repeated observations of inappropriateconduct. The Navy also said Owings faced sexual harassmentand simple assault charges for his conduct.
According to officials, the former XO and former CMC havereported to COMNAVSURFLANT for administrative duties.
Rafferty's relief arrived onboard Gunston Hall, as previouslyscheduled, on July 26. He immediately assumed the duties of XO andRafferty transferred prior to the completion of the investigation.The new command master chief was previously scheduled to reportJuly 30, and he too assumed the duties of CMC prior to thecompletion of the investigation.
The Gunston Hall returned to Hampton Roads over the July 4thweekend following a nearly six-month deployment that saw the shipparticipate in Haitian earthquake relief efforts and serve as theflagship for Africa Partnership Station (APS) West.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
State officials say construction on a new Bonner Bridge has been delayed for years because of a legal battle with an environmental group.
The Coast Guard transported two people off Hatteras Island early Thursday morning following the sudden closure of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge Tuesday.