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Three Navy Unit Leaders Fired After XO Reportedly Found Naked in Woods

Navy leadership took the rare step of relieving all three members of the command triad for Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four, deployed to Okinawa, Japan, after an embarrassing incident in which the unit’s executive officer was reportedly found drunk and naked in the woods.

Officials with Naval Expeditionary Combat Command told Military.com that the NMCB-4 Commanding Officer Cmdr. James Cho, Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Jason Gabbard, and Command Master Chief Jason Holden had all been removed from their posts Monday by Naval Construction Group One Commodore Capt. Mike Saum.

The firings followed “an incident of personal misconduct by the executive officer, and the subsequent mishandling of that incident,” NECC officials said in a statement. A spokeswoman for the command declined to elaborate further.

Navy Times first reported the firings Wednesday, citing a source who said Gabbard had been removed from his post after being discovered in the woods on Camp Shields, Okinawa, drunk and wearing just his boots following a command gathering.

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A source told the publication that Cho and Holden had been relieved after attempting to cover the incident up.

All three senior leaders have been temporarily assigned to Naval Construction Group One, in Port Hueneme, California, officials said.

Capt. Nick Yamodis, who previously served as operations officer for Naval Facilities Northwest, will take over as commanding officer until a permanent replacement is identified.

“Our senior leaders are entrusted to uphold the highest standards of personal and professional conduct at all times,” NECC officials said in a statement. “Meeting these high standards of conduct is as critical as meeting our high standards of material, personnel and operational readiness.”

The statement continued that trust forms the foundation for every action for military professionals.

“We expect our service members to conduct themselves with the integrity and character to justify that trust,” officials said. “When there are any indications that those values are not being followed, we conduct appropriate investigations and take action as necessary.”

The move to remove all three leaders in a unit’s command is reserved for extreme instances of misconduct or failures.

The Navy relieved the command triad of the destroyer Fitzgerald in one fell swoop last August following a deadly ship collision that left seven sailors dead. The former commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, is now facing a charge of negligent homicide.

Prior to that, the command triad of the destroyer Bainbridge was relieved in 2016 amid a scandal involving fireworks and gambling aboard the ship.

— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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