Is There Something Wrong With Our Skippers, Or With Our Crews?

In a little over a month, the Navy has replaced four ship captains. The captains of the cruiser USS Anzio, destroyer USS Barry, attack submarine USS Springfield and patrol ship USS Shamal have all been relieved of command.

The captain of USS Anzio (CG-68) was relieved due to personal misconduct. Capt. Brian Sorenson was flown off the cruiser while it was taking part in training exercises at sea as part of the USS Harry Truman battle group. The captain was replaced by Capt. Frank Castellano, commanding officer of the cruiser Vella Gulf. Anzio is working up for deployment and Capt. Castellano will retain command. A new commander for Vella Gulf, currently in the yard, will have to be found.

The commanding officer of USS Barry (DDG-52) Cmdr. Patrick Foster was relieved of command on August 21. According to the Navy, Cmdr. Foster was canned by Captain Brian Fort, commander of Destroyer Squadron 26, “due to loss of confidence in his ability to command following an on-going investigation into a series of decisions over time reflecting poor judgment, failure to meet and uphold the highest personal and professional standards, and poor program management.”

Cmdr. Daniel Lombardo, captain of the USS Springfield, a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine was relieved of his command “due to loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

Lt. Cmdr. Alisha Hamilton
Lt. Cmdr. Alisha Hamilton

Loss of confidence was also the reason for the replacement of Lt. Cmdr. Alisha Hamilton as commander of USS Shamal (PC-13) in Mayport, Fla.  USS Shamal is one of three Cyclone-class patrol combatants based at Naval Station Mayport. With all of the investigations ongoing, little information about the reasons behind the firing of these captains has been revealed, yet. Loss of confidence by their commanders can cover a variety of naval sins.

Whatever the reasons, the simple fact that there are four current captains getting booted out of their commands should give everyone pause. It is relatively rare for a ship captain to be relieved without a good reason and four in the last month is unheard of.  There are only two reasons that ship captains get fired. The first is if they screw up and hit something with their ship. The fastest way to lose a command is to run aground.

The second way, and with the number of ship captains being relieved on the upswing it appears to be the primary reason, is because of the newer dynamic of ships with both female and male crews. Fraternization on ship is not allowed, but it’s hard to enforce. Since the captain is responsible – not only for his behavior but the behavior of everyone on his ship – they are held accountable for the problem.

“To those of us who have examined this problem from the inside, this seems a forlorn hope. Simply put, you cannot put young, healthy men and women into a small box, send them away for extended periods of isolation, and not expect them to interact dynamically with one another. They’re like magnets being put into a box and shaken — they stick,” wrote retired Capt. Kevin Eyer in USNI.

Integrating women into combatant ships is well underway and turning it around is not an option. For the foreseeable future, captains are going to get fired – whether they did anything or not.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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Matt Towns

Matt is a former military journalist who spent 10 years in the US Navy. He served in various posts during his career, including a couple of deployments on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). After leaving the Navy, he worked in management for a number of years before opening his own businesses. He ran those businesses until 2012 when he chose to leave the retail industry and return to writing. Matt currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to the US Patriot blog and other websites about political affairs, military activities and sailing.
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4 thoughts on “Is There Something Wrong With Our Skippers, Or With Our Crews?

  1. I served on the USS John S McCain (DDG-56) circa 1996-1999 with the then newly commissioned Ensign Patrick Foster. His firing does not surprise me, makes me wonder how many sailor’s careers he ruined to get to his position. Karma takes awhile to work I suppose.

  2. LOL…I guess you did not bother to read the articles. Asking a fellow officer “to perform a sex act on him” has nothing to do with the crew, but blaming the crew is typical of the naval officer corps when I was in the service during the Tailhook scandal. You do remember Tailhook? For the record the Navy was not Integrating women into combatant ships at the time of the Tailhook scandal, and IMHO you need to come up up with another lame excuse for “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman,”

  3. “There are only two reasons that ship captains get fired.” This is patently false. There are myriad reasons COs get fired. CAPT Holly Graf was fired from her job as CO of USS Cowpens for “cruelty,” which had nothing to do with running aground, or having an integrated crew, but everything to do with her just treating her crew in terrible fashion. COs can get relieved for anything – COMSEC insecurities, liberty incidents, you name it. This article is specious, and blithely ignores the contributions made to our Navy by many of our female shipmates. The author also speaks of the “newer dynamic of ships with both female and male crews” – what?! Combatant integration started in the early 1990’s, as I recall, over 20 years ago. It’s here to stay. And successful COs can – and will – demonstrate the leadership required to make it work.

  4. I believe it is a combnination of skipper and crew. There is no excuse for this type of collision at sea by a Naval vessel, particularly in peacetime. Since it is unlikely to be the result of equipment failure, this can be directly related to bridge and/or CIC watchstanding discipline. If watchstanders are unable to monitor and interpret the navigation equipment and at least sound an alarm (or even take direct action) they do not belong on the bridge or CIC. It’s the skippers responsibility to not allow this level of incompetence to be in command, directly or indirectly, of a vessel at sea, let alone an American warship. How the hell can a 400 to 500 foot commercial vessel “sneak up” on a combat ready U.S. Navy ship?

    Or maybe they were all on the Mess Deck for Diversity training.

    Gross incompetence.


    USN, Ret. 1966 – 1970
    Civilian service,Ret., 100 ton Master, inland, 2000-2015
    Private vessels, 8 years costal and near costal 2001-2010

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