Kitty Hawk air wing commander removed for ‘loss of confidence’

TOKYO — The U.S. Navy air wing commander for the USS Kitty Hawk’s strike group was relieved of duty Friday after an admiral said he lost confidence in the commander’s ability, according to a Navy spokeswoman.

Capt. Michael P. McNellis was relieved as commander of Carrier Air Wing 5 by Rear Adm. Richard B. Wren, commander of Commander Task Force 70, the Navy said in a news release.

The admiral’s mast, a nonjudicial punishment proceeding below the level of court-martial, was held Friday at sea aboard the Kitty Hawk, according to Cmdr. Jensin W. Sommer, CTF-70 strike group spokeswoman.

Sommer declined Friday evening to give any details about the circumstances leading to McNellis’ nonjudicial proceeding.

Sommer described Wren’s findings as a removal from command “due to a loss of confidence, not a punishment.”

McNellis left the Kitty Hawk on Friday, Sommer said. McNellis, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and trained as an EA-6B Prowler pilot, was preparing for retirement, she said.

Capt. Michael S. White, the former air wing deputy commander, assumed command, Sommer said.

McNellis took command of Carrier Air Wing 5 in September 2006 from Capt. Garry Mace, who commended McNellis at the time for his experience.

“Since I started working with [McNellis], he’s always been a moral compass for me, keeping me pointed in the right direction,” Mace said in 2006. “I’m sure as a leader, he’ll do great things for this air wing.”

The air wing is based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi and includes seven aircraft squadrons and two smaller aircraft detachments, consisting of about 70 aircraft and 2,000 people. It is part of the Kitty Hawk’s strike group, the largest in the Navy.

The USS Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group is conducting training and operations in the Philippine Sea, Sommer wrote in the news release.
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