Navy Sacks Top Female Commanding Officer

( – The US Navy has fired its most senior female commanding officer, Captain Michel Brandt. Commander of the USS Somerset, Brandt had been in post for less than a year. A statement from the Navy said it had “lost confidence in her ability to lead.” Captain Tate Robinson has replaced her as commander of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, and she has been assigned to Naval Surface Force Pacific.

Experts say that loss of confidence is typically cited in personnel removals, and further details are rarely supplied.

Captain Brandt’s military career began in 1998 when she completed the Vanderbilt University Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. She completed six deployments and won the Legion of Merit, three Defense Meritorious Service Medals, four Navy Commendation Medals, and three Navy Achievement Medals.

The USS Somerset has a history of leadership difficulties and controversies, and in 2018, Captain William Sherrod was relieved from duty, citing a lack of confidence in his leadership. In 2020, the vessel was implicated in the deaths of nine service personnel when their marine amphibious craft sank while returning from an off-board mission. A Navy investigation found poor communication and gaps in training but stopped short of directly attributing these to the incident.

Captain Brandt joined a growing list of senior Navy personnel dismissed or replaced this year.

In February, Capt. William “Mac” Harkin was removed from post due to “a lack of confidence in his ability to lead.” A month later, Captain Richard Zaszewski, Captain Geoffry Patterson, and Captain Kurt Balagna were all fired for driving while intoxicated. In April, Captain Abigail Yablonsky Marter was replaced by Capt. Franca Jones, with a loss of confidence in Marter’s leadership once again cited as the cause.

In 2023, 16 commanding officers were relieved of duty, with “lack of confidence” named in all instances. Two officers were dismissed on the same day in January—Captain Michael Nordeen and Captain Alex Jenkins. In all cases, Navy officials did not explain why.

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