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MCAS Futenma commander ousted due to ‘loss of trust and confidence’ in ability to lead

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MCAS FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan- Police Chief Osamu Hamada, left, accepts a letter of appreciation from Col. Mark Coppess during an award ceremony March 8 on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan. Hamada was recognized for his excellent service to Ginowan City and MCAS Futenma. Hamada is retiring as the Ginowan City Police Department chief. Coppess is the commanding officer of MCAS Futenma. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicole Rogge)

The Marine Corps has relieved the head of one of its most important Pacific bases due to a “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead his command.”

Col. Mark Coppess was fired Tuesday from his job as commander of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, by Marine Corps Installations Pacific chief Brig. Gen. Paul Rock, a III Marine Expeditionary Force statement said.

Futenma is home to about 3,000 Marines from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and other units on a southern island prefecture that is strategically important to stability in the region and deterring aggression from China and North Korea.

However, operations there have been unpopular with some locals, and an effort to relocate the base to rural northern Okinawa has been a major political and diplomatic issue for the United States and Japan.

This year, people living near Futenma have complained about falling aircraft parts and aircraft flying over local schools. In January, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis apologized to his Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera, for a string of mishaps, including the emergency landings of Okinawa-based Marine Corps helicopters.

Coppess took over Futenma on June 4, 2017. Col. David Steele was to assume command of the air station on Wednesday, the Marine statement said.

robson.seth@stripes.com

Twitter: @SethRobson1

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