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VCNO Moran Headed to Bahrain Following Death of 5th Fleet Commander

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran speaks to sailors during an all-hands call at Commander, Fleet Activities Chinhae, Korea on Sept. 11, 2018. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s number-two is on his way to the U.S. naval base in Bahrain following the Saturday death of U.S. 5th Fleet commander Vice. Adm. Scott Stearney.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran is set to arrive this week at Naval Support Activity Bahrain to console Stearney’s family and the sailors at installation, a Navy official told USNI News on Monday. Moran is planned to have at least one all-hands call for the sailors at the Navy’s Middle East headquarters.

He is also traveling to the region to reassure allies and partners to the U.S. commitment to its mission in the region, but the official stressed that was a secondary part of his trip to the naval base. According to the official, Moran is not leading the investigation into Stearney’s death. NCIS and Bahraini officials have not made a determination on the cause of death, but a U.S. official told USNI News that it will almost certainly be ruled a suicide.

Last year, Moran was tapped to lead the Navy’s effort to reform the surface navy after two fatal collisions in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility resulted in the death of 17 sailors. He conducted a worldwide listening tour and series of all-hands calls to U.S. surface installations as part of the surface reform effort.

Moran was scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday about overall Navy readiness, but the hearing was canceled due to Wednesday being declared a day of mourning to honor former president George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday.

  • Leatherstocking

    Condolences to the family of VADM Stearney. We lose so many active and former shipmates to suicide as do the other services.

  • Marcd30319

    NCIS and Bahraini officials have not made a determination on the cause of death, but a U.S. official told USNI News that it will almost certainly be ruled a suicide.

    Until the actual investigation is completed and released, repeating rumors and speculation by a single unnamed source is not right and does a great disservice to the deceased’s family and the Navy itself.

    • Duane

      it is a DOD official, not some guy on the internet spouting “rumors and speculation” – it is a preliminary finding of an official US military investigation. Stop saying that it is improper. You are completely wrong.

      The American public, the Navy, our allies all need to know the facts. A senior commander in a vital US overseas command is a key military asset. Knowing the circumstances of how that command was vacated is our right to know. DOD is handling this very well.

      • Marcd30319

        It is still an unnamed source whose motivations and agenda no one knows.

        BTW – How do you know if it is a “DOD source” since this article cites a “U.S. official” which could be anyone.

        Nor is it a “preliminary finding” if it has not been officially released by the proper authority in a transparent and verifiable fashion.

        It is not proper and just plain wrong to leak information about an ongoing investigation before that investigation has been completed. It is unfair to the deceased’s family and to the Navy, too. If this was a police investigation of a local homicide, and there were these kind of anonymous leaks to the press, the public would be justifiably outraged.

        The public’s right to know will be met when the official investigation is completed and its findings released officially and through the proper authority, and not through this constant drip of leaks by unnamed sources.

        • Duane

          You completely mischaracterize the source of information. It is not a “constant drip of leaks” – it is outright statements to the media by an official DOD spokesman stating that while the investigation is not fully completed, the initial cause of death is believed to be suicide.

          The investigation is not likely to be completed for quite some time. Drug screens, for instance, typically take many weeks (as much as 8 or more) to finalize. That does not invalidate the investigator’s preliminary ruling of apparent death by suicide. Even if the immediate cause of death was obvious (like a gunshot wound to the head), the final investigation would not be complete without a drug screen to determine if the deceased was under the influence of drugs.

          A DOD spokesman, whether named or not, is not TMZ. If the DOD spokesman were named, guys like you would immediately attack him or her and attempt to shift the spotlight to that person’s credibility, their “motives”, who their friends are, what political party they’re a member of, blah blah blah … everything but the fact of the cause of death of the deceased. None of that matters in the slightest, of course.

          The American people deserve to know, and have a legal right to know, as do the sailors who served under command of the deceased. And regional allies also.

          For example, if this were a murder investigation, it would change the heck out of everything, legally, politically, and command wise. Knowing that investigators do not believe that this was a third party homicide is extremely important and timely information to put out. The stability of the world could depend upon that information.

          • Marcd30319

            You completely mischaracterize the source of information. It is not a “constant drip of leaks” – it is outright statements to the media by an official DOD spokesman stating that while the investigation is not fully completed, the initial cause of death is believed to be suicide.

            Okay, please provide a press statement or press release that explicitly states this on the record for everyone to see, and not an unnamed, anonymous “US official” (or “DOD spokesman”) being cited by CBS News (and USNI News Blog) and repeated by CNN, the New York Post et al.

            Otherwise, this is just poppycock and balderdash.

          • Marcd30319

            This is the only official U.S. Navy statement that I can located:

            Team, it’s my sad duty to inform you that today the Secretary of
            the Navy Richard V. Spencer and I were told that Vice Adm. Scott
            Stearney, our commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th
            Fleet, was found deceased in his residence in Bahrain today. This is
            devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at 5th Fleet, and
            for the entire U.S. Navy.

            Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior. He was a devoted
            husband and father, and he was a good friend to all of us. The Naval
            Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are
            cooperating on the investigation, but at this time no foul play is
            suspected. Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, the deputy commander of 5th Fleet,
            has assumed command and is maintaining continuity in our
            responsibilities and posture in the U.S. 5th Fleet.

            I ask that you keep the Stearney family in your prayers and
            respect their privacy as they navigate through these very difficult
            times.
            We will keep you informed as we learn more. Thank you very much.

            https:// www. navy. mil / submit/ display.asp?story_id=107968

          • Marc, we’re working hard to balance respect for the family with the public’s need to know crucial information about their military. We are making sure to publish an account that includes information that is verified without going into gratuitous detail about the specifics of the incident. Suffice to say, the attribution we used in our story is our attempt to do that within our own professional standards.

          • Marcd30319

            Sam, I appreciate the challenge, but during the initial reportage, only CBS mentioned “apparent suicide” citing “Defense officials” on December 2nd. This was picked up by the New York Post, Al Jazeera, and the London Daily Mirror. CNN cited a “US defense official” in reporting “apparent suicide” on December 3rd. The waters have become muddy enough.

          • Duane

            I know it is a US DOD source because the author of this and previous posts here on USNI says it is a US DOD source.

            Are you calling USNI and their writers liars? If you are, then you better produce your own evidence that they are lying.

            I rather think not.

            The poppycock and balderdash is emanating from you . Give it up.

          • Marcd30319

            The following is from this article that I quoted in my initial posting (see above):

            NCIS and Bahraini officials have not made a determination on the cause of death, but a U.S. official told USNI News that it will almost certainly be ruled a suicide.

            So, no, I am not “calling USNI and their writers liars” and in any case, please note that I did mention parenthetically “DOD spokesman” in my previous posting. For good measure, I will throw in “a U.S. defense official” from the initial USNI article about Vice Admiral Stearney.

            Now that I have corrected your misconceptions, please provide a press statement or press release that explicitly states this “apparent suicide” on the record for everyone to see, and not an unnamed, anonymous “US official” (or “DOD spokesman” or “U.S. defense official”) being cited by CBS News (and USNI News Blog) and repeated by CNN, the New York Post, Al Jazeera (oh, joy!) et al.

  • Duane

    This move indicates that the US Navy considers this breach in the command structure to be a serious matter affecting the confidence of both the sailors and our allies, and our enemies too. Sending VCNO to theater in addition to a senior acting commander is a clear sign that the Navy takes this theater extremely seriously.

    • NavySubNuke

      Talked to a buddy who is over there – said everyone is in a state of shock which isn’t too surprising whether he died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack or if the reports of a suicide are actually correct. A sobering reminder for all of the fragility of even those we consider strong as we head into the holiday season.
      I just hope there is security footage of the compound to prove unequivocally that he was alone given all the tensions with Saudi Arabia right now.

      • Duane

        Good points. I expect that this is a very shocking circumstance for our military members there, it is so unusual amongst senior commanders to commit suicide (though suicide is currently the leading cause of death for serving US military members today).

        The middle east is always a powder keg, and matters associated with both Saudi Arabia and Iran and their respective allies and enemies are especially hot given the recent murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi that the CIA believes was directly ordered by the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, MBS.

    • rotorhead1871

      its a good initial reaction…..lets see whats going on to drive some sensibility and operational solidity along with REAL personal responsibility and teamwork….NO commander should be accepting the CRAP material readiness of machines that obviously need parts and maintenance to be FULL SYSTEMS CAPABLE….QUIT ACCEPTING SUBSTANDARD QUALITY. GET IT RIGHT!!

  • Leroy

    If this was indeed suicide, is it another sign of a broken Navy? Is the Navy even able to engage in sustained combat operations? Are we missing lots of Red Flags that have been building over the last few years? Congress needs to take a close look:

    – Iran intercepts and takes Navy riverine boat sailors hostage without a shot fired
    – McCain and Fitz collide with commercial shipping
    – Submarines unavailable due to maintenance backlogs
    – Aircraft readiness rates down due to lack of spare parts
    – Possible suicide of a top Admiral

    Those are off the top of my head. Feel free to add to list. But when a major-command Admiral commits suicide (possibly – we need to see the final investigation results), that tells me we have a BIG problem and it’s been building for years. Again, Congress needs to investigate. Canaries in the coal mine. There are too many to ignore!

    • Marcd30319

      As I recall, back in the early 1990s, there were a series of mishaps and accidents that prompted a Navy-wide operational pause to assess what was happening and undertake appropriate corrective actions.

      Many of the problems that you have identified are genuine, and may require corrective action, better training, better supervision, more funding, improved redundancy, etc.

      As for Vice Admiral Stearney’s death, we will need to let the investigation run its course before we rush to judgement.

      • Jimmy B

        And sadly the 1990’s also saw Adm Borda’s suicide while he was the CNO. What a shame all around

        • Marcd30319

          I went back and found that the standdown order was issued on November 14, 1989 by then-CNO Admiral Carlisle A.H. Trost (see Chronology of the Cold War at Sea, 1945-1991, page 216).

          The circumstances surrounding Admiral Boorda’s suicide was a heart-breaking tragedy.

          • Leroy

            From what little I understand of psychology, the brain is an organ and like any organ it is subject to getting sick. Neurotransmitters go awry, and this leads to real physical and emotional problems. But the active-duty military is still in the dark ages over this. Over mental health. They still think it’s a “weakness”! So I’d ask …

            What was weak about Adm. Boorda or (if suicide is the case) Adm. Stearney? Nothing! That’s why the military needs a cultural change, a big-time adjustment in attitudes. That flows from the top and can only come from the top. It’s a service-head’s responsibility – the CNO in the case of the Navy (or perhaps SecNav). Only they have the horsepower. Only they can provide the required LEADERSHIP.

            If sexual harassment or diversity warrants lectures and attention, training and indoctrination, so too does attitudes towards treating mental health. If Adm. Richardson can’t or won’t initiate change, recognition, a service-wide attitude adjustment, then let SecDef order it.

            Someone higher up has to take this bull by the horns and start a journey that should have started a long time ago. A real journey not a short-tripped one. Or maybe it has and I’m just not aware.

            These tragedies have to stop. There is no need for them, and I’m sure they occur more frequently at lower ranks. Task the Naval Education and Training Command and make awareness a priority. Incidents like this shine a light. Use it Adm Richardson and step into the void. That’s what leaders do. I have nothing else to say other than these needless incidents make me sick! I saw them way too many times back when I was on active duty. Such a waste.

  • rotorhead1871

    wow!!…..WTF with the NAVY??…..they have a LOT to FIX!!……cant drive ships…….leaders dropping off…..they better get a handle on operations and overall NAVY health. what happened to sensibility and commonsense??