U.S. Navy Relieves Commander of USS Ford's Destroyer Squadron

Capt. William "Mac" Harkin at his change of command ceremony, Feb. 2023 (USN)
Capt. William "Mac" Harkin at his change of command ceremony, Feb. 2023 (USN)

Published Feb 11, 2024 11:36 PM by The Maritime Executive


On Saturday, the U.S. Navy dismissed the commanding officer of Destroyer Squadron 2, the surface combatant unit assigned to the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group on Ford's last deployment. 

In a brief statement, the Navy said that Rear Adm. Erik Eslich has relieved DESRON 2 Commodore Capt. William Harkin of command "due to a loss of confidence in Capt. Harkin's ability to perform his duties." In keeping with standard practice, the service did not provide further information on the reason for the decision. 

Harkin has been reassigned to a staff post. Capt. James Von St. Paul has been appointed to take his place on a permanent basis. 

Before taking command of DESRON 2, Harkin commanded Afloat Training Group Norfolk; served as head of the Weapons Branch, Surface Warfare Divison on the CNO's staff; and commanded the destroyer USS Bulkeley. Earlier in his career, he also commanded three different Cyclone-class patrol boats, the Navy's smallest commissioned surface combatants. 

DESRON 2 escorted USS Gerald R. Ford on her long voyage last year. The carrier was deployed to the Mediterranean for eight months, including a 76-day extension due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Ford and her escorts returned to port less than four weeks ago. 

New details on previous personnel actions

Though the Navy rarely provides details about personnel decisions, the circumstances are often leaked by officials or members of the command. Last week, Navy Times reported that the service relieved the CO of the destroyer USS Howard because of "unprofessional comments," not because of any other inability to perform his duties. 

Cmdr. Cameron Dennis, who was appointed to take command of USS Howard in September, was relieved of command last week. It was the second time in less than six months that 7th Fleet had replaced the warship's commanding officer, and the service cited only "loss of confidence in his ability to perform his duties." 

Two officials told Navy Times that the firing "was not connected to Dennis' professional performance," and one of the officials asserted that it was connected to "unprofessional comments" in the workplace.