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Destroyer Commander, XO and CMC Removed At Sea Ahead of ‘Command Climate Investigation’

USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) departs Naval Station Norfolk for an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility on May 30, 2014. US Navy Photo

USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) departs Naval Station Norfolk for an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility on May 30, 2014. US Navy Photo

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this post used the term, “relieved” to describe the removal of the commander, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor of USS James E. Williams (DDG-95) in the headline and body of the story. Those references have been changed to, “removed.”

The commander, executive officer and the senior enlisted sailor of the guided missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG-95) have been removed of their commands ahead of an “investigation into the command climate,” aboard the ship, according to a statement issued Tuesday evening by U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Williams’ commander — Cmdr. Curtis B. Calloway — was replaced at sea on Tuesday at the half way point of the ship’s planned eight month deployment to U.S. 6th Fleet by Capt. Anthony L. Simmons from the staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, according to the release.

In addition to Calloway’s removal from command, the former Williams’ XO Cmdr. Ed Handley and Command Master Chief Travis Biswell have been reassigned to the staff at Naval Surface Force Atlantic, “pending the outcome of the investigation,” said Fleet Forces.

Removing the three positions — commander, XO and CMC — almost all at once is exceedingly rare.

May 31, 2014 photo of Cmdr. Curtis B. Calloway, Command Master Chief Travis Biswell and Cmdr. Ed Handley from the ship's ombudsman Facebook page.

May 31, 2014 photo of Cmdr. Curtis B. Calloway, CMC Travis Biswell and Cmdr. Ed Handley from the ship’s ombudsman Facebook page.

No other details of the investigation were available and calls placed with Fleet Forces representatives were not immediately returned to USNI News.

Williams’ had left Naval Station Norfolk, Va. on May 30 for an eight month partner navy engagement mission is U.S. Africa Command — typically undertaken by smaller Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates.

“It’s been a very long road for my crew,” Calloway told the Navy Times in May.
“We’ve worked hard to get to this point, and we’re very excited and ready to go.”

It was the first deployment for around a 100 sailors — almost a quarter of the 380 person crew. A third of the sailors only reported to the ship two months before the ship left, according to the Navy Times.

Calloway had previously served in destroyers as the engineering officer on USS Barry (DDG-52) and a 27-month tour as executive officer of USS Gonzalez (DDG-66), according to an official Navy bio.

Onshore tours included time as the Antiterrorism/ Force Protection Officer at Commander DESRON 2 and Naval Surface Fire Support section head in the Surface Warfare division of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV).

Before taking command of Williams’, Calloway was, “Surface Warfare division of the Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force, where he was the Operational Test Director for the DDG-1000 program and a Special Projects Officer,” read the bio.

USNI News was unable to locate an official bio for former XO Handley.

CMC Biswell enlisted in 1999 and, “has completed two Atlantic and four Pacific deployments on three ships with both surface and amphibious forces,” according to his bio.

The following is the text from the U.S. Fleet Forces news release on Tuesday provided to USNI News: 

AT SEA – Capt. Anthony L. Simmons relieved Cmdr. Curtis B. Calloway as commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) at sea Sept. 16.

Simmons arrives from the staff of Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 and will remain in command pending the completion of a DESRON 2 command-directed investigation into the command climate .

Calloway, former James E. Williams Executive Officer Cmdr. Ed Handley, and Command Master Chief Travis Biswell have been assigned to the staff at Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic pending the outcome of the investigation.

The ship and her crew departed Naval Station Norfolk May 30, for an eight-month deployment to the 6th Fleet area of operations. While there they have been participating in security operations, exercises, and combined cooperation (foreign nation) operations in conjunction with U.S. Africa Command.

  • KenPrescott

    Let the irresponsible speculation begin!

    • penguin_boy


    • 2IDSGT


    • KenPrescott


      • BlueMax372

        Zombie boobies?

        • KenPrescott


  • Brendan Smith

    What is it with Skippers these days? Can’t keep themselves out of trouble.

    • Jezebel

      This article is bullshit. As KenPre
      scott said..let the irresponsible speculation begin!! (Currently stationed on this ship.)

      • Brendan Smith

        I didn’t speculate a thing. You don’t get relieved of command for no reason. I don’t know what happened, but you don’t take the entire command staff off of a ship, for no reason, mid tour. All I did was ask the question, Why can’t Skippers stay out of trouble these days? This isn’t the first, or the second Skipper to be removed from command in the past two years.

        • john dierking

          Brendan, you display your ignorance. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? I sure would like to know some concrete answers.

          • retired Chief

            How did he display ignorance for stating facts. There has to be enugh evidence against the 3 for them to take such drastic measures in the middle of a deployment. CO’s are not relieved on a whim.

          • BlueMax372

            Or at least they didn’t used to be prior to January 20, 2009.

          • David Scott

            Innocent until proven guilty is a purely criminal law concept. Command of a warship is a privilege, not a right. If your seniors have serious doubt as to your fitness to command, you may be removed.

          • Brendan Smith

            John, with respect, the ignorance on display here is your own. At least in regard to the operation of a warship of the United States Navy. This is not about guilt or innocence. It is about the perception of the Admiralty that this command staff had lost the ability to effectively command the ship. This may have nothing to do with anything that requires the burden of proof in a court of law. That doesn’t mean the Command Staff was competent to run a warship either.

          • john dierking

            Brendan, I have to call you on your stuff. Maybe you miss the point. This could and should be a matter of court martial. recently that has not been the case. It seems like the number of command reliefs has in recent years skyrocketed. Refer to Naval Proceedings for ongoing discussion. Oh, by the way, The United States Navy does not have an admiralty OR a lord admiral.. Are you a Brit? or a civilian? Just curious.

          • Brendan Smith

            There are many reasons that could cause a Skipper to be removed from Command that would not require a Court Martial. Ever here of Non Judicial Punishments? Letters of Reprimand? Also, how do you know this could and should be a matter for Court Martial? As previously stated, we really don’t know what happened. So, we have no empirical data to determine if this should be recommended for Court Martial or not. As far as the Admiralty comment, I could use 6th Fleet Command, COMNAVSURFLANT, if you like.

            Personally, I spent seven years in NAVSECGRU.

          • john dierking

            Brendan, I am not trying to attack you, your ego or your information. I really am trying to understand. The use of naval abbreviations helps me. I was not ULO but do not try to play who has the bigger d*ck.

        • T

          There are suspicious deaths on this ship being investigated. I pray for the truth for the sake of those who lost their lives.

          • Brendan Smith

            Wow, that’s really bad and really bad sounds so inadequate as I read it to myself. I too shall pray for them and their families.

  • TokyoTengu

    Disturbing. I’ll refrain from speculating until I learn more.

    • KenPrescott

      Party pooper!

  • john dierking

    please help me understand. They were relieved BEFORE the investigation, or before its’ conclusion? I sure would like to hear the detailed list of suspected or actual offenses. Have they been court martialed? convicted, what?

  • JH

    Hello redundancy! Haven’t seen an article with this much redundancy in a long time. Did I mention this article is packed with redundancy?

    • TLVBCH

      Let me see; 100 new sailors, most of them most likely have never deployed before, start bitching to their wives, The wives are now all up in arms and bitch to the squadron ombudsman and in the new navy the skipper must go..

      I have served under some CO’s s who were SOB’s but very competent at what they did. Personally I’d rather serve under a competent SOB then a feel good, crew loves him/her CO.

    • Gert

      Impossible! The article was screened by the Department of Redundancy Department prior to release.

  • Geoff Harvard

    For what shipboard condition is “command climate” now the code word? Did the ship run aground because command climate abetted slovenly navigation and piloting? Did the aft engine room flood out inport because command climate allowed ferrous fasteners in the firemain/flushing system and for the M Division cold iron watch to remain in his bunk?

    • john dierking

      jeff, hard evidence in these cases is often treated as a BIG SECRET.

  • musksnipe

    Purging all commanders and senior enlisted, who haven’t signed a pact, with the CIC.
    There’s my speculation. 😀

    • gunnerv1

      I agree, but we’ll never know if the “Conspiracy Theory” of not firing on US Citizens is real.

  • A former shipmate

    CDR Handley was not the XO during the timeframe that the events are being investigated. He left the ship on 02Jun14. He has been away from the ship for 3.5 months during the time the commanding climate is under investigation. He was not relieved. He was slated to be the prospective Commanding Officer to relieve CDR Calloway but cannot relieve during a active command investigation. Check the command website to find out the current XO and he was not relieved. Get the facts straight USNI! Additionally, JAMES E WILLIAMS was the most successful ship on the waterfront during their basic phase setting all functional area scores way above fleet average. Golden Anchor, advancements among crew 20% higher than fleet avg. Sounds like a pretty successful command climate to me!

  • publius_maximus_III

    I hope this doesn’t involve the theft of a quart of frozen strawberries…

    • Guillermo Andrade

      Thanks alot. Now I’m going to have to watch that…soon!

  • Thomas Cat

    “It was the first deployment for around a 100 sailors — almost a quarter of the 380 person crew.”
    Looks like common core standards are being used at USNI. 1/4 of 380 is 95, by the way. Bob Barker would not be pleased!

    • Jesse C

      95 is “around” 100 as the article states. The words “around” and “almost” points, to those of us that have good reading comprehension skills, that they are using approximate numbers and not actual figures.

  • CaptainParker

    So…what politically incorrect act or acts did the command staff engage in? Not enough deference to diversity/gay rights issues/falling over backwards to find sexism/ ad nauseum? The Navy already has the reputation of slavish obeisance to whatever PC nonsense is trendy this season. Gee…maybe someone’s feelings were hurt.

    • Hargraves Ian

      Bet they refused to allow the muslim goats on the deck for the bent sailors to play with!

      • Jeff

        Racist AND homophobic in one post? Too bad you couldn’t find a way to work sexism in there as well and go for the trifecta. Can’t even get good trolls any more.

  • Beef Diesel

    Another good deal.

  • disqus_89uuCprLIv

    Climate? What defines command climate?

    What is the reference? OPNAVINST? What article in Navy Regs is appropriate?

    Very PC!

    Who is being made happy by all this?

    • Flounder

      OPNAVINST 5354.1F

      • john dierking

        you apparently know more about the situation than I do. If they were indeed in violation , and under investigation, why are they replaced before the investigation is complete? I do understand replacing a CO at that point , but him, the XO and the CMC? Unless all are in flagrant violation.

    • john dierking

      all good questions.

  • Jester

    There’s more to come out of this than meets the eye, but climate of command investigations usually means that they were doing something fucked up.

  • Saint Nico

    A 15-year CMC? Well, that explains it.

    • Thomas in Jacksonville

      This retired Marine was thinking that was a very short time in to be a CMC.

  • Jordan Moss

    This isn’t the first time this has happened to this ship. I was a crew member in 2009 when the same three positions were removed from command following our deployment. Something about that ship where terrible events always occur.

    • Johnathan Simpson

      so the ship is a Jonah..thats a possibility…or…could this possibly have anything to do with the NJP of 9 folks involved in a “liberty incident” that is under investigation…..and the subsequent suicide of a female BMSN?……

  • T

    This is in response to mysterious deaths on the ship during his command! I pray to God that the truth will prevail! RIP Yeshebel Carrasco!!

  • stltchr

    I think there was a palm tree involved…

  • Guess it and call it

    Probably “ZOMBIES” had invaded and were the new “commanding force.” Hey, if you think we shall ever hear the truth? Think again-gee, like think “truly again!” It is like we are told the truth regarding the VA Scandal that Veterans have dealt with, complained to their political leaders, yet when one knows how to “test those leaders” with a small amount of knowledge released to them, ‘litmus test’ then you find out, “WHO CAN YOU REALLY TRUST?” Word of ADVICE-“QUESTION EVERYTHING!”


    Where the ships officers complicit in allowing a foreign leader and his royal court to take control of the ship? Did the strange invaders torment the ships crew? I’m sure prez obuttma would not be amused.

  • Jon

    This crap is really getting old, command seems to be the death knell for all too many naval officer and senior enlisted careers. There’s a serious problem in the Navy somewhere.

  • De Rod

    This is what happens when our military personnel refuse to obey this administration.


    I see “The Kangaroo Set” is jumping as high as ever. Get the report before you snort!