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Destroyer Williams Triad Found Guilty of ‘Dereliction of Duty,’ CMC Was ‘Drunk and Disorderly’

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, Command Master Chief Travis Biswell and Cmdr. Ed Handley from the ship’s ombudsman Facebook page.

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.

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

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.

  • KenPrescott

    Drunk and stupid is no way to go through a deployment, Master Chief.

    • Ruckweiler

      KenPrescott:
      Agreed. One can only imagine the effect his drunkenness had on the crew.

    • John Smith

      They promote them waaay too early these days. I’ve seen MCPOs with only a couple hashmarks on the sleeve. Booksmart, but immature.

      Initiation is a joke now as well. “Transition” is so watered down now.

  • Previous Navy

    I sincerely hope there is something more to this story that we are not getting. Perhaps the involvement of NCIS. Otherwise,a dereliction of senior commanders. Such a massive change of crew just before a major deployment. A15 year Master Chief, and aCMC at that?!? And who can predict a sailors suicide? Only one incident in a foreign port? You have got to be kidding. There has to be something else!

    • Gray Stoke

      I don’t see a suicide and one liberty incident warrants the entire relief of the ship’s leadership.
      A CMC with 15 years of service is young but on the other hand he could be really capable in his own right. BUPERS assigned him in that position so they should share some of the blame.

  • Thomas Patrick

    This Obama’s PC Navy.

    • Capt Woody Sanford

      Please explain why this is a politically correct incident directly attributal to President Obama.

      • gunnerv1

        Main reason is that there have been a noticeable uptick in the “Removal of Senior Command Structure” in the last 6 years as compared to previous years in shear numbers. (and no, I’m not going to do your research for you).

  • Rich Hertz

    I served with Curtis Calloway in one of his prior wardrooms. He is not one of the better officers I worked with in my career. He had his favorites which he treated well, and others which he did not. At the end of the day, he did not hold people accountable for failures in personal conduct, empower his junior officers, or provide sufficient leadership to solve problems.

    There was also a Navy Blue incident at that command which was mishandled. Under the circumstances, the incident should have been held confidentially and I should not have been privy to the knowledge of the events. Not only did I see it leaked out, but I was appalled that the accuser was still forced to work in close contact (for several months) with her offender during the investigation. As a senior officer directly in the chop chain, he bore direct responsibility in the bungling. I am not privy to all the details in this case or on DDG-95, but a finding of dereliction of duty with this officer does not surprise me.

    I never worked with Handley. However, the fact that he and Calloway served together in a prior wardroom may have led to undue familiarity between the CO and XO. This may have contributed to the problem. Big Navy should think about this when assigning CO’s and XO’s.

    • An inner circle person

      They didn’t serve together in another wardroom. Handley was outgoing CHENG as Calloway was incoming XO.

    • John Smith

      Is that a picture of the Sportcenter guy?

  • Secundius

    Maybe they’ll get their next commands of the USS. Good-Ship-Lollipop or the USS. Pinafore???

    • old guy

      How insulting (to the HMS Pinafore) whose only anomaly was that the Captain and a “common” sailor were mixed up and the ranks should have been reversed.

      • Secundius

        @ old guy.

        No offense, his next ship command. Will probably the USS. ROWE A. BOAT…

    • John Smith

      Or the ship with Ben Hur.

  • an inner circle person

    Do you know what I find pathetic? That an alleged reputable news organization like this one is not asking more questions. Like how do you fire the incoming CO that hasn’t been on the ship since June 1 and was actually sitting on the beach waiting to go out to take command. Why don’t you ask that?

  • Reminds me of the time when the XO got wasted in Hong Kong and tried to commandeer the (chartered) liberty port. He ended up spending the entire rest of the deployment onboard but I don’t know (nor should I) what else happened to him.