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Grounding Turns Praise Into Dismissal for U.S. Navy Commanding Officer

Commander Kenji Igawa, then-CO of USS Howard, during a live-fire exercise June 29. His leadership was praised on July 5, then condemned on August 20 after USS Howard sustained a soft grounding (USN)
Commander Kenji Igawa, then-CO of USS Howard, during a live-fire exercise June 29. His leadership was praised on July 5, but he was removed five weeks later after USS Howard sustained a soft grounding (USN)

Published Aug 22, 2023 4:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The destroyer USS Howard briefly ran aground earlier this month as it was arriving in Bali, U.S. 7th Fleet has confirmed to Navy Times. The destroyer's well-regarded commander has since been removed from his post and reassigned. 

On August 10, as USS Howard was nearing Bali, Indonesia for a port call, the destroyer had an "apparent soft grounding," a spokesperson for 7th Fleet said. The crew took action to protect the vessel, which was able to refloat under its own power. No injuries were reported, and the Navy did not mention any damage to the warship. 

An investigation into the cause of the grounding is under way. The destroyer's commanding officer, Cmdr. Kenji Igawa, was relieved of command over the weekend. As is standard practice, the Navy only cited "loss of confidence in his ability to command."

Igawa served as commanding officer for about nine months, and had previously been USS Howard's executive officer. Just last month, the Navy publicly praised his performance: In a release entitled "Japanese American Naval Officer Leads Yokosuka Based USS Howard to Success," 7th Fleet said that his "leadership and dedication to service is a testimony of what makes the United States a great nation." 

He has now been reassigned to fleet staff, as is standard when a CO is relieved. 

Capt. Edward Angelinas has stepped in to serve in Igawa's place until the Navy finds a permanent replacement. Capt. Angelinas previously served as the CO of the destroyers USS McCampbell and USS John S. McCain; he took command of the latter at a particularly challenging time, following the deadly 2017 collision that claimed the lives of 10 of USS McCain's sailors.