The leadership triad of the guided missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG-95) has all been found guilty of dereliction of duty in a non-judicial punishment hearing before Capt. Fred Pyle, commander of Destroyer Squadron 2 (DESRON 2), on Thursday, U.S. Fleet Forces Officials told USNI News.
In addition to the dereliction charges, Command Master Chief Travis Biswell was found guilty of being, “drunk and disorderly.”
Former Williams’ CO Cmdr. Curtis B. Calloway, XO Cmdr. Ed. Handley and Biswell have been now been relieved from their positions on the ship after being removed from the Williams in mid-September.
“The command triad failed to demonstrate effective leadership,” Lt. Cmdr. Cate Cook, a Fleet Forces spokeswoman, told USNI News on Friday.
The removal of the top three leaders of a U.S. ship at sea is exceedingly rare.
“Calloway, Handley and Biswell began temporary assignments at Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic (CNSL) at the outset of the investigation and are expected to remain there pending final action by Commander, Navy Personnel Command,” read a statement from Fleet Forces.
Further details on the charges for the trio were unavailable but Fleet Forces plans to release a redacted version of the DESRON 2 investigation in the next few weeks, Cook said.
What is known is a significant portion of the ship’s crew — who left Naval Station Norfolk, Va. in May for a eight month partner engagement deployment to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) — were new to the ship and at-sea deployments.
It was the first deployment for around a 100 sailors — almost a quarter of the maximum 380 person crew (DDGs typically operate with smaller crews sizes, around 290) and a third of the sailors only reported to Williams two months before the ship left, according to the Navy Times.
Likewise, Biswell was a 15-year CMC. Several current and former U.S. sailors contacted by USNI News said typically the chief enlisted officer on a guided missile destroyer would have had several more years experience in the Navy before rising to the position.
While underway a sailor had committed suicide onboard Williams a month out of port and USNI News has learned there was at least one “liberty incident” when the ship made a port call to the Seychelles off the Eastern coast of Africa.
In addition to the DESRON 2 inquiry, there is at least one criminal investigation ongoing — overseen by NCIS, USNI News has learned.
A spokesman with NCIS did not immediately return a Friday call for comment.
Calloway, Handley and Biswell were removed from their positions almost simultaneously while Williams was at sea around Sept. 16, according to naval sources.
Calloway was due to rotate out of the command position and Handley was scheduled to “fleet up,” and assume command of Williams around that time.
Instead the three were removed from the destroyer at sea, another rarity due to the logistical challenges.
The ship continued its deployment under the command of DESRON 2 Deputy Commodore, Capt. Tony Simmons.
Fleet Forces identified commander Cmdr. Heidi Haskins the next Williams CO.
Current XO, Cmdr. Chad Fella, reported to the ship on May 31 and new Command Master Chief Asa Worcester reported to the ship on Oct. 3.
The ship is due back to Norfolk early next year.
The following is the complete Oct. 10 statement from U.S. Fleet Forces.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Press Release – 39-14
October 10, 2014
USS James E. Williams Update
NORFOLK, Va. – Capt. Fred Pyle, Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 awarded separate non-judicial punishments (NJP) to three former leaders of USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) Oct. 9.
At the NJP proceedings, Cmdr. Curtis Calloway, former commanding officer; Cmdr. Ed Handley, former executive officer and prospective commanding officer, and Command Master Chief Travis Biswell were found in violation of various articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Specifically:
– Calloway: UCMJ Article 92, Dereliction of Duty
– Handley: UCMJ Article 92, Dereliction of Duty
– Biswell: UCMJ Article 92, Dereliction of Duty and UCMJ Article 134, drunk and disorderly conduct
Cmdr. Heidi Haskins has been identified as the next commanding officer and will take command from Capt. Tony Simmons, DESRON 2 Deputy Commodore. Simmons temporarily assumed command after relieving Calloway Sept. 16 during a change-of-command ceremony.
Haskins will join Executive Officer Cmdr. Chad Fella and Command Master Chief Asa Worcester to lead the crew. Fella reported aboard May 31. Worcester reported aboard Oct. 3.
Calloway, Handley, and Biswell began temporary assignments at Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic (CNSL) at the outset of the investigation and are expected to remain there pending final action by Commander, Navy Personnel Command.
The ship and her crew are currently deployed to the 6th Fleet area of operations. While deployed, the crew has participated in security operations, exercises and combined cooperation operations with foreign partners in support of U.S. Africa Command.