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Navy Releases Names Of 3 Sailors Killed In Crash Off Japan

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The U.S. Navy has released the names of three airmen who were lost at sea. They were aboard a transport plane that crashed in the Pacific last week. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing that it's one of several fatal incidents this year involving U.S. naval forces in Asia.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: The Navy identified the three as Lieutenant Steven Combs of Florida, Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso, also of Florida; and Airman Matthew Chialastri of Louisiana. The Navy is still investigating the cause of the crash. Lieutenant Combs' sister, Air Force Major Elizabeth Combs described her brother to Fox News.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOX NEWS BROADCAST)

ELIZABETH COMBS: To know him is to know that there is goodness - to know that, you know, there's someone who'd always have your back.

KUHN: The three were among 11 servicemen aboard a C-2A transport plane which crashed en route to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Eight others aboard were rescued. The men belonged to the Navy's Japan-based 7th Fleet. The crash brings the number of 7th Fleet personnel killed in mishaps this year to 20. Seventeen were killed in two collisions at sea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN RICHARDSON: I'll be clear. These accidents were preventable.

KUHN: Earlier this month, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson briefed reporters on the Navy's investigation into the two collisions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARDSON: And recent experience has shown that if we're not careful, we can become overstretched, overextended. And if we take our eye off the fundamentals, we become vulnerable to mistakes at all levels of command.

KUHN: The fundamentals include basic seamanship and navigation. Richardson basically said that the 7th Fleet was so busy conducting naval patrols and maneuvers that it neglected proper training. The Navy has created a supervisory body to prevent similar problems in future.

Dr. Collin Koh, a maritime security expert at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, says that governments around Asia have watched the spate of incidents with concern.

SWEE LEAN COLLIN KOH: The problem is that for a very long time, regional governments, especially those in Southeast Asia, they have been looking at the U.S. Navy to sort of play the big role in stabilizing the region.

KUHN: Koh says that these nations now have little choice but to beef up their own naval capabilities.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF JACOO'S "STARS OF MALEK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.