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Executive Officer of Brand-New Littoral Combat Ship Passes Away

USS Marinette
USS Marinette transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway after Cmdr. Volkle's passing (U.S. Navy / USS Marinette crew)

Published Nov 14, 2023 7:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

The executive officer of the brand new littoral combat ship USS Marinette passed away on board while the ship was in port at Cleveland, Ohio, the U.S. Navy has confirmed. 

Cmdr. Jonathan Michael Volkle, 44, was an active-duty officer stationed in Mayport, Florida, the homeport for the Freedom-class LCS fleet. He served at sea aboard the USS Kauffman, one of the last Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, as well as both of the ill-fated destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald. He commanded the mine countermeasures vessel USS Patriot. He also served in Japan with Destroyer Squadron 15 and was well-regarded among Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force officers, a former shipmate said in his obituary. He is survived by his wife and two sons. 

USS Marinette recently delivered at the Fincantieri Marinette yard and had just sailed away for the first time in mid-October. She was outbound for the Atlantic, but was held up in Cleveland because of the St. Lawrence Seaway strike, which closed the waterway to all traffic. 

Volkle was found unresponsive on Oct. 27 and was later pronounced deceased, U.S. Surface Force Atlantic said in a statement. According to USNI, which first reported his death, investigators believe that his passing was a suicide. 

"Our thoughts go out to the Volkle family during this incredibly difficult period, and we would ask their privacy be respected," U.S. Surface Forces Atlantic said in a statement. 

Suicide is an increasing problem in the U.S. military as a whole, and has grabbed headlines in specific U.S. Navy commands, like the cluster of suicides and attempts aboard the USS George Washington during a long-delayed drydock availability. At the same time, the service is struggling to recruit and retain enough personnel to fill its ranks, creating an additional workload burden for those who remain. Recruiting efforts fell short by about 7,000 personnel last fiscal year, the Navy has confirmed.

The crew of USS Marinette have carried on with their mission after Cmdr. Volkle's passing. Four days later, they attended a Cavaliers game in Cleveland with support from the local USO, according to the ship's Facebook page. The vessel transited out the Welland Canal on November 4, exited the St. Lawrence Seaway and called at Halifax before heading south, bound for her new home port in Florida.