Navy Fires Commander of USS Ohio — 3rd Submarine Skipper Relieved in 7 Months

by Braxton Taylor

The Navy fired the commander of one of its guided missile submarines on Monday — the third submarine firing in the last seven months — according to a press release on Wednesday.

The commanding officer of the USS Ohio sub’s gold crew — Capt. Kurt Balagna — was relieved by Rear Adm. Nicholas Tilbrook, the commander of Submarine Group 9, “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the Navy said.

Balagna appears to be the third Navy commander relieved this year. However, since last September, Navy leaders have fired the skippers of the USS Georgia and USS Alabama as well. Navy officials have previously said that in 2023, the service relieved 15 commanding officers.

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The Navy’s statement did not offer any more information about why Balagna was removed from leadership, outside of the boilerplate “loss of confidence” remark.

A Navy official told Military.com that the relief was “related to conduct rather than performance” but would not offer any additional details.

The Ohio is homeported in Bangor, Washington.

According to Balagna’s official biography, he enlisted in the Navy in 1992 as a nuclear electronics technician before earning his commission in 1997 through a ROTC program.

Throughout his career, Balagna sailed on the ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky, where he completed five strategic deterrent patrols, as well as the attack submarine USS Annapolis.

He served as the executive officer of the USS Virginia, and he commanded the USS Annapolis before coming to the USS Ohio. The public biography does not say when Balagna took command of the Ohio’s gold crew but publicly released images put the date before January 2021.

The Ohio is one of four guided-missile submarines that were converted from carrying Trident II D5 nuclear ballistic missiles to Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. However, like their ballistic brethren, guided-missile submarines have two sets of crews — blue and gold. They take turns manning the submarines and taking them on patrol.

According to the Navy, “this maximizes the [submarine]’s strategic availability, reduces the number of submarines required to meet strategic requirements, and allows for proper crew training, readiness and morale.”

Balagna’s biography says that among his awards are the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

The Navy said that the Ohio’s prospective commanding officer, Capt. Andrew Cain, has assumed commander’s duties.

Related: USS Georgia Submarine Commander Arrested in Georgia and Relieved of Duty Due to ‘Loss of Confidence’

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