Home » Budget Industry » USS Fort Worth CO Relieved Over January Propulsion Casualty


USS Fort Worth CO Relieved Over January Propulsion Casualty

Cmdr. Michael Atwell, commanding officer of LCS Crew 101, observes Engineman 1st Class Silvano Becerra make the necessary engineering adjustments for USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) to operate at high speeds in response to a man overboard reported by a merchant vessel in the South China Sea in late 2015. US Navy Photo

Cmdr. Michael Atwell, commanding officer of LCS Crew 101 (left), observes Engineman 1st Class Silvano Becerra make the necessary engineering adjustments for USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) to operate at high speeds in response to a man overboard reported by a merchant vessel in the South China Sea in late 2015. US Navy Photo

The current commander of USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) was relived following early results of an ongoing investigation into a propulsion casualty that cut short the operational deployment of the Littoral Combat Ship to Singapore, Navy officials told USNI News on Monday.

Cmdr. Michael L. Atwell, formerly the commanding officer of LCS Crew 101, was relieved of his position on Monday as a direct result of the investigation following the Jan. 12 propulsion casualty that has left the ship sidelined in Singapore.

While the investigation, initiated by the Singapore-based Task Force 73, is ongoing there was enough information to relieve Atwell, Lt. Clint Ramsden, a Pacific Fleet spokesman told USNI News on Monday.

Atwell’s, “failure to maintain procedural compliance in execution of the maintenance operation was sufficient reason to call into question his ability to lead the ship’s crew,” Ramsden said.

The incident damaged the complex gearing mechanism that linked the ship’s gas turbines and ship’s diesel engines and now the Navy is currently weighing options to repair the ship either in Asia or back in the U.S. – likely San Diego, Calif.

Atwell, a career surface warfare officer with time on frigates, carriers and destroyers, was previously the executive officer of LCS Crew 101 before fleeting up to lead the ship, according to a Navy biography.

LCS crews operate under a 3-2-1 manning construct in which three crews support two ships, one of which is always forward. LCS Crew 101 had taken control of the ship in November.

Following Atwell’s removal he was assigned to LCS Squadron 1 in San Diego.

“Cmdr. Lex Walker, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7, will assume temporary duties as commanding officer until a permanent relief is assigned,” the service said in a statement.

USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) transits the South China Sea in July 2015 during a 16-month rotational deployment in support of the Indo-Asia-Pacific rebalance. US Navy photo.

USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) transits the South China Sea in July 2015 during a 16-month rotational deployment in support of the Indo-Asia-Pacific rebalance. US Navy photo.

The investigation into the Jan. 12 incident is ongoing and currently pending review with Commander, Naval Surface Forces.

“Based on initial indications, the casualty occurred due to an apparent failure to follow procedures during an operational test of the port and starboard main propulsion diesel engines,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman with U.S. Pacific Fleet, told USNI News in January.

The following is the complete March 28, 2016 statement on the relief of Cmdr. Michael L. Atwell from command of LCS Crew 101.

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) — The commanding officer of Crew 101 for littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) was relieved March 28.

Cmdr. Michael L. Atwell was relieved by Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Task Force 73, due to loss of confidence in Atwell’s ability to command.

The loss of confidence followed an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding an engineering casualty that occurred Jan. 12 in Singapore. While the investigation is still under review by leadership, sufficient findings of facts emerged during the investigation to warrant the relief of the commanding officer. Atwell has been temporarily re-assigned to Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 1 in San Diego.

Cmdr. Lex Walker, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7, will assume temporary duties as commanding officer until a permanent relief is assigned.

Fort Worth is a littoral combat ship rotationally deployed to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility since November 2014, and is homeported in San Diego.

No decision has been made yet on the options for follow-on repairs to Fort Worth related to the Jan. 12 engineering casualty. As Fort Worth demonstrated through continuous operations in 2015, littoral combat ships provide an important capability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and planning continues for future LCS deployments.

 

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Categories: Budget Industry, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • Charles Gallagher

    It sure sounds like the CO is being made the scape goat. Wish we had more details. Any good control system is designed so that a human cannot command something that will cause significant damage. Was that the case here?

    • Fred Gould

      He is the sacrifice to protect the builders.

      • Angie Nathan

        One of these days they will wear their broom bristles down to nubs or the bulge under the carpet will be pressed up against the ceiling and then they will have some splaining to do.

  • And who is going to get relieved for the failure to adequately manage a shipbuilding program?

    • old guy

      Nah, all of the social snobs will be promoted. Zumwalt must be spinning in his grave.

  • Bo

    Isn’t it nice to see an O-3 publicly humiliating and O-5 commanding officer. How about the senior officer who led the investigation, or the commander who made the decision to relieve Commander Atwell, standing up/manning up in public and explaining this matter? Instead, the hide behind the skirts of a junior PAO … impious leadership at its worst. But, this is what I have come to expect from many “leaders” (nay managers) in the SWO community, where a single AD incident can prevent a Battle E.

  • old guy

    HUNK-A-JUNK claims its first kill. Good luck, commander.

    • juliet7bravo

      Nah, the wake has already got its first kills.

  • LT B

    “As Fort Worth demonstrated through continuous operations in 2015, littoral combat ships provide an important capability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and planning continues for future LCS deployments.” By who’s standards?

  • Fred Gould

    The CO and XO of course.

  • It is a brave new Navy. Bring in a new golden boy.

  • Jim Valle

    In April of 1844 the new steam frigate Missouri burned for a total loss after an illegally stowed jar of turpentine broke and leaked on felt which the engine crew was using while overhauling a steam chest using a open flame lamp, which was also against regulations. Although he was not present the Missouri’s captain, John T. Newton, was ultimately deemed responsible for the loss of the ship and a court martial board sentenced him to two years suspension from duty. This case established that a commanding officer was ultimately liable for engineering practices and casualties on board his ship even if the fault was actually attributable to subordinates violating standing orders without his knowledge.

  • draeger24

    okay….his firing aside….what was the cause/problem with the propulsion….

    • grandpabluewater

      Didn’t start the lube oil pump to the reduction/load balancing between diesels and gas turbines gear train when attempting to get underway. Fried same. C4 (big time) in Mobility. Likely tow or heavy lift ship load to CONUS from Singapore. Gross violation of the law of the 7 P’s, crew fatigue/under-manning by design likely a significant contributing factor.

      Likely, not really attributable to the design of the ship, which is none the less absolutely unsatisfactory as a warship. No combat value, no survivability in combat, lousy combat systems, no fire control system worth of the name, utterly failed design, no moment arm and tonnage margin for not yet installed or developed “modules” which are the heart of the design concept, which is tactically nonsensical. Can’t make intended speed, fuel hog, substandard UNREP capability. Textbook example of failed execution of program, huge sunk cost. 15 years into program, not one really successful deployment, which are numbered in single digits. Going to have OPEVAL (!) and shock tests real soon now, honest.

      Going to be the basis for the next class of escort of convoy frigates (?!). Going to replace mine sweeps/hunters…entire mine warfare module cancelled this week. Already decommissioned all the frigates and most mine warfare ships, so capabilities essentially gone baby gone.

      Utter disgrace.

      LCS program delende est.

      • draeger24

        thanks for that….wow, I’m not a fan of that variant, although the other one holds some promise if they stretched it, beefed up the engines, and tried not to make it a “one-ship-does-all”…just can’t work. We do need something with that speed for amphib ops, particularly, NEO’s to get on station with a SpecWar launch capability. The old FFG’s were slow, and basically screen missile catchers. As for Mine Warfare, the rage on the early 90’s, they now completely sold Ingelside and mothballed most mine-warfare assets – unfortunately, we will be doing it again. The military needs to learn to keep all capabilities at least in some fashion, and be able to surge, rather than this “air power uber alles” after Gulf 1, then “ground uber alles” in this war. We will be facing the Chinese at some juncture. “Balance, Danielson, go finda’ balance”. Thanks for that update!

      • syscom3

        The design for the propulsion system should have been idiot proof. Sensors would have detected the oil pump was not operational and the crew notified to turn it on.

        • grandpabluewater

          A simple preunderway lineup compartment bill in the EDSOPs, which ER watchstanders were trained to use, and ER PO’s trained to enforce the use of, would be more than sufficient.
          You could put a microswitch or pressure switch or voltage present light on everything in the ship with an alarm bell, but then you have to test the alarm…which requires a knowledgeable and conscientious watch section…which requires a practically oriented and properly administered department training program, which hard to do when you have a ton of SAPR training lectures to get through….if the crew is shorthanded by design, which it is. Penny wise, pound foolish.

  • CuddlyCobra

    Scapegoat.