SAN DIEGO - A retired military official says hundreds of sailors were put at risk aboard the USS Cowpens after a new report shows that the commanding officer let subordinates take control of the ship.
Capt. Greg Gombert served as the commanding officer of the Cowpens, leading the crew on a recent seven-month deployment. 10News spoke with him in November during typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines.
"They'll bum rush the helicopter," he told 10News. "They mean well, but they're in survival mode."
The ship made headlines in December when it had a near miss with a Chinese amphibious ship.
Then just two months after the USS Cowpens returned to San Diego, Gombert was relieved of his duties.
A report by the Navy Times said Gombert became sick with flu-like symptoms and ultimately spent more and more time in his cabin. It said he skipped multiple briefings, even though the investigation obtained by the publication showed he exaggerated his medical condition.
The article said Gombert delegated responsibilities to unqualified officers, including Lt. Cmdr. Destiny Savage. Savage was "not fully qualified to be a permanent XO," according to the report.
The article goes on to say he may have engaged in a "questionable relationship" with her.
"I've never heard of anything like this before," said retired Rear Adm. Len Hering.
Hering said giving duties to unqualified personnel puts the entire ship at risk.
"I would say abnormal, abnormally strange that a commanding officer would relinquish the responsibility of safety and command to a subordinate, not command qualified," Hering said.
The investigation reported by the Navy Times showed there were a string of bad decisions on the Cowpens' deployment that started with Gombert.
"The commanding officer is the individual with the greatest amount of experience, and is ultimately responsible for the conduct and the safety of the ship," Hering said.
Team 10 reached out to the former commanding officer but has not yet heard back.