Those words are paralyzing for any Commanding Officer. They mean the Commanding Officer has FAILED! His or Her career is over! It may have been because of something done by a subordinate that the Commanding Officer did not see coming or it can be for something the Commanding Officer actually did.
Recently, the Commanding Officer of an Attack Submarine was Relieved of Command for faking his own death to end an affair he was having. My first take on the news report was, how dumb can one person be! I actually knew a Commanding Officer who was relieved of command because he was having an affair. But this CO not only had an affair but tried to break off that affair by faking his own death. He enlisted the help of a past shipmate. So not only did he ruin his life, he ruined the life of a friend! What a louse!
But the real question I have is, why did this fellow qualify for Command in the first place? Did he only show a lack of judgement after he took command of that Fast Attack Submarine? I doubt it. Most likely he had a career of poor decisions and bad life choices that were overlooked or ignored by the Chain of Command. My opinion, that is not based in any fact. But, it is based on experience.
But the most destructive part of a Commanding Officer's failure is visited on the crew. The crew, looks up to their Commanding Officer. That CO is the authority figure, the leader, the teacher, the arbiter, cheer leader, and most of all, the person who leads them in combat! When this person fails, all of these most necessary qualities are dashed for the crew. Their Captain has been relieved because HE failed them. That is the reality of the situation and the crew now has to meet their new Commanding Officer under stressful, hurried, and maybe punitive, situations. Their trust has been violated, and in many cases they will never know why or how. But just the same, their world is completely turned upside down!
There has been a rash of Commanding Officers being Relieved for Cause over the last few years. I believe this is a failure of the Chain of Command first and foremost. The Navy needs to do a better job screening individual Officers for Command at sea and ashore. To do less, will continue to dash the morale and performance of the enlisted personnel of the Navy and have a negative effect on combat readiness!