Pearl Harbor sub commander relieved of command

Updated at 9:08 p.m., Friday, October 30, 2009

Commander of Pearl Harbor sub relieved of command

By William Cole

Advertiser Military Writer

The commander of the nuclear attack submarine USS La Jolla based at Pearl Harbor was relieved of his post today “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the U.S. Pacific Fleet submarine force said.

Cmdr. Doug Sampson, who has been in command of the Los Angeles-class submarine since October of 2007, was relieved of command by the commodore of Submarine Squadron One, Capt. Stanley Robertson, the Navy said.

“This action was deemed necessary due to the failure of Cmdr. Sampson to meet the high Navy standards necessary to remain in command,” the Pacific Fleet submarine force said in a statement.

Such a removal is usually a career-ender in the Navy.

Lt. Cmdr. David Benham, a spokesman for the Pearl Harbor-based Pacific Fleet submarine force, said he could not go into a lot of specifics on the submarine skipper’s removal. Those issues are under investigation, he said.

“The issues, I would say concern some of the in-port planning, the operations and the administration, which fell short of the high Navy standards,” Benham said.

Benham said Sampson’s “leadership of the crew was inadequate, and that caused the loss of confidence that led to his relief today.”

Benham said the actions did not immediately endanger anyone. The 360-foot-long, 9,600-ton submarine is in the Pearl Harbor shipyard for about 10 months of maintenance.

“Neither the crew nor the public was ever in any danger in relation to the events that led to Cmdr. Sampson’s removal,” Benham said.

Another official said the removal relates to required documentation of inspections and testing.

The Pacific Fleet submarine force said administrative action also “has been taken or is being considered” for other crew members of USS La Jolla, but the number of crew members under scrutiny was not specified.

Sampson will be temporarily assigned to Submarine Squadron One, the Navy said. Cmdr. Erik Burian, who previously held command of the Pearl Harbor-based sub USS Los Angeles, has taken command of USS La Jolla.

Sampson could not be reached for comment.

Benham said the La Jolla, commissioned in 1981, is in the shipyard for what’s known as a “pre-inactivation restricted availability.” The shipyard in January said the La Jolla was expected that month. The repairs were expected to take 10 months.

Benham said the maintenance work preserves a sub’s ability to conduct future operations until it is decommissioned. No date has been set for that decommissioning, he said.

Sampson enlisted in the Navy in 1984, according to his official biography. He graduated from Auburn University, attended Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and received his commission in November 1989.

Sampson reported to his first submarine, USS Pogy in his hometown of San Diego in June 1991. He was the engineer officer on the submarine USS Florida in 1997, and was executive officer on board USS Pasadena in Pearl Harbor in January 2003.

In October of 2008, La Jolla returned from a six-month western Pacific deployment, visiting Guam, Japan and Singapore.

The submarine, which has a crew of about 140, can be armed with Mark 48 torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles. Pearl Harbor has 17 submarines, with an 18th, the USS Texas, on its way to Hawai’i.

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