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USS Antietam Commander Relieved Amidst Grounding Investigation

Capt. Joseph Carrigan, takes command of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) on May 20, 2016. US Navy Photo

The commander of a U.S. guided missile cruiser that ran around last month in Japan has been relieved of command, a service official told USNI News on Wednesday.

Capt. Joseph Carrigan was removed from command of USS Antietam (CG-54) by Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 70 based on the initial findings of a command investigation into the January grounding of the ship.

“While the investigation is still under review by leadership, sufficient findings of fact emerged during the investigation to warrant the relief of the commanding officer,” read a statement provided to USNI News.

U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight did not reveal what details from the investigation resulted in the removal of Carrigan when contacted by USNI News.

“Capt. Jonathan Duffy, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron 15, will assume temporary duties as commanding officer until a permanent relief is assigned,” read the statement. “Carrigan has been temporarily reassigned to commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan.”

The service hasn’t offered much more than a basic account on how Antietam ran during anchoring in Tokyo Bay. A report in Navy Times said Antietam was at anchor in the bay when high winds and a strong tide pushed the ship aground before the crew could maneuver the ship to safety.

The grounding resulted in the damage of the ships propellers and the loss of 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fluid – which was missing for days after the incident.

Antietam is equipped with controllable pitch propellers — complex hydraulic systems that allow a ship’s commander to position the propeller blades to change the speed and direction of a ship without changing the rotation of the ship’s shafts.

USS Antietam (CG-54) in the South China Sea on March 6, 2016. US Navy Photo

Repair or replacement of the propellers would almost certainly require an extensive dry dock repair period. PACFLT’s Knight would not elaborate on the current status of the ship or its maintenance outlook other than assessments for the repair schedule were ongoing.

The last grounding of a Ticonderoga-class cruiser was USS Port Royal (CG-73) off of Hawaii in 2009. Though the damage was more extensive than the reports of Antietam, the repair cost $40 million in then-year dollars.

The controllable pitch propellors of USS Cowpens (CG-63) at Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s dry dock six n 2010. US Navy Photo

As to the missing hydraulic fluid, “based on a joint assessment coordinated with the Government of Japan and Japanese oil spill contractor, the U.S. Navy assessed that environmental impact was minimal,’ read a separate PACFLT statement.
“The local Public Works Department and Port Operations also monitored the area to determine if additional environmental responses were needed by the contractor and found no further actions were necessary.”

The following is the complete March 1, 2017 U.S. Pacific Fleet statement on the relief of Capt. Joseph Carrigan from command of USS Antietam.

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -The commanding officer of USS Antietam (CG 54) was relieved March 1, 2017.

Capt. Joseph Carrigan was relieved by Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Task Force 70, due to loss of confidence in Carrigan’s ability to command.

The relief follows an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding a grounding that occurred on Jan. 31 in waters near Yokosuka, Japan. While the investigation is still under review by leadership, sufficient findings of fact emerged during the investigation to warrant the relief of the commanding officer.

With ultimate responsibility for the safety and well-being of the ship and the lives of Sailors, commanding officers are held to the highest standards of accountability and must have the full confidence of Navy leaders. . .

Capt. Jonathan Duffy, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron 15, will assume temporary duties as commanding officer until a permanent relief is assigned. Carrigan has been temporarily re- assigned to Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan.

The Navy is finalizing plans to accomplish follow-on repairs to Antietam related to the Jan. 31 grounding, which are expected to commence in Japan in the coming weeks.

Antietam is a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan since 2012. Through regular, routine and lawful operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Antietam has demonstrated the Navy’s enduring commitment to regional security and stability.

  • disqus_89uuCprLIv

    in 1908 when ADMIRAL Nimitz was a Junior Officer (O-1) he was the CO of a destroyer which grounded off Newport, RI. He received a letter of reprimand and another chance. In today’s resource short Navy any risk is to be avoided and accidents costing $$ and drydock time punished. No lesson learned for the next CO except to be extra-cautious, never risk at all, etc.
    Having smaller ships (LCS) will allow junior Naval Officers time in command and having the Deck and Conn. This should improve shiphandling when they are assigned to larger, more valuable ships.

    • muzzleloader

      O-1? Do you mean that he was OOD at the time, or that as an ensign he was the C.O.?

      • NavySubNuke

        He was in fact CO of a destroyer as an O-1.

        • Tom marshall

          How ,may I ask , can an Ensign be the CO of a Destroyer????
          I served in 9 Ships , from a Mine sweeper (MSO-470) to a Battleship (BB-64) , Heck , on the mine sweeper , we had an 0-4 , LCDR…..
          Tom Marshall
          CWO4 (BOS’N)
          RET…..

          • Steve M

            It was a whole different Navy 109 years ago. Nimitz graduated from Annapolis in 1905. At that time, Annapolis graduates had to serve as warrant officers for 2 years before being commissioned as Ensigns.

            Nimitz was the Commanding Officer of the destroyer Decatur as an O1 when it ran aground. (This was in the Philippines, not Rhode Island.) He was court martialed and issued a letter of reprimand for neglect of duty, then reassigned to training with the First Submarine Flotilla. When he complete that training, he was given command of a submarine, and was also the commander of the flotilla. He was still an Ensign when he held those commands. He went from Ensign to Lt. in 1910, and as a Lt. he was was the CO of the USS Narwhal, and he was also Commander of the 3rd Submarine Division Atlantic Torpedo Fleet.

            Nowadays, an Ensign wouldn’t be put in command of a dixie cup in a kiddie pool.

          • Mac

            Wasn’t John S. McCain, Sr, his XO?

          • Aubrey

            I don’t believe so. Along with Halsey and Spruance, McCain was on the Great White Fleet at about that time.

            Now, one thing I did not know (until I just Googled it) was that Dudley Knox also commanded the very same ship (USS Decatur, DD-5) a couple of years before Nimitz.

          • Mac

            I know McCain was his XO at some time, because Halsey answered “the world wonders” with the reply “I have sent McCain”, knowing that Nimitz thought the world of McCain. Also, when Nimitz visited Guadalcanal and had “dinner” with A.A. Vandergrift, they realized that they had each been court-martialed as ensign/second lieutenant–Vandergrift for returning a couple of hours late from liberty.

          • Dave_TX

            McCain served under Halsey when Halsey commanded Task Force 38 during WWII.

          • Duane

            Yup.

            Additionally, the Decatur (Bainbridge class) was officially called a “torpedo boat destroyer” at the time, but by even World War I standards it would have been considered a small patrol. Displaced only 420 tons, 250 feet long, with a complement of 3 officers and 72 enlisted. The “flush decker” Wickes class of WWI had a displacement of 1,154 tons, 314 feet long, with a complement of 100 officers and crew. The WWI ships were far smaller than typical World War 2 destroyers.

          • NavySubNuke

            Different time and a different Navy. I’d encourage you to read an Admiral Nimitz biography sometime. Even just googling “admiral nimitz grounding” would give you plenty to read on the matter.

          • SM3, Edwin “Tony” Roach

            Doesn’t our navy teach the international rules of the road anymore?

          • wfraser11

            Did you serve in the US Navy in 1908? No? BUY A HISTORY BOOK and shut the pie hole.

    • NavySubNuke

      I agree with your first paragraph.
      Your second paragraph just doesn’t reflect reality – LCS’ are right now commanded by O-5s and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Especially when you look at all the multi-million dollar accidents that have occurred in several LCS engineering plants lately.
      JOs on an LCS might get more time of having the deck and the conn compared to what they would get on a destroyer or cruiser but that is going to be driven by the smaller wardroom size.
      And we are still going to have just as many JOs reporting to non-LCS ship as their first ship unless the Surface fleet executes a pretty massive change to only assign new O-1s to an LCS first and then later to other ships. This doesn’t seem likely.

    • Western

      The USS Michael Murphy has had four commanding officers in the last five years.
      The USS Antietam has had 17 COs in the last 20 years.
      Are captains given enough opportunity to learn the characteristics of their ships in a variety of conditions, or are tickets being punched for career advancement at the expense of the Navy?

    • USNVO

      Come On! The two situations are not even remotely similar. I would it was an apples to oranges comparison but at least they are both fruit.

      1. Nimitz was an O-1. He graduated in January 1905 and ran aground in Jul 1908. A whopping 3+ years of experience. He was commanding a ship for the first time in the Philippines with limited navigation capability, a complement of 3 officers (all as junior as he was), and he ran aground on an uncharted sandbar.

      2. CAPT Carrigan is an O-6 with 23+ years of service who was selected for major Command. Besides his Division Officer and Dept Head tours, he served as XO on a DDG and CO of a DDG, He commanded a ship with the latest navigation equipment, an extensive crew of experienced officers, in a well charted area with superb knowledge of the tides and currents, and his ship ran aground on known shoal water because it drug anchor!

      Yeah, you are right, the situations are almost identical.

      I don’t know anything about this case other than what was reported in the press, but from other similar cases, I would be willing to bet substantial amounts of cash that his relief had nothing to do with a “zero defect” mentality and everything to do with his crew’s failing to follow even the most basic standards of seamanship. Care to make that bet?

      • wfraser11

        Yup And the post above erroneously states he grounded his ship in Rhode Island. NOT

    • wfraser11

      disqus. Nope. The lesson is train and oversee your bridge watches to ensure they know how to maneuver and navigate their ship while underway. It has nothing to do with being extra “cautious, never risk blah blah blah. The rules of the road are simple to follow and have nothing to do with risk taking. Stand a good watch and you’re fine. Put undertrained or incompetent people on the bridge and you have a proble. Pretty basic concept.

  • CaptainParker

    Another Navy career being sent to Davy Jones’ locker.

    • wfraser11

      Parker. Careerism is destroying our military. We need to return to mandatory service and/or a draft to ensure our military reflects our society.

  • kaamAdmi

    Ensign Nimitz was commanding the destroyer with following dimensions
    Displacement:
    420 long tons (430 t) (standard)
    592 long tons (601 t) (full load)
    Length:
    245 ft (74.7 m) (pp)
    250 ft (76.2 m) (oa)
    Beam: 23 ft 7 in (7.2 m)
    Draft: 6 ft 6 in (2.0 m) (mean)

  • doc holiday

    With NO training I could look at a radar scope and see a behemoth ship moving at 10mph if it were near my ship. We must have the Dumbest people on earth on these ships.

  • William Tower

    The CO.s in command today are the product of the “qualify and move on” era of training. Get your EOOW, move to OOD, move to new platform, re-qual as a JO on new type of ship. The amount of actual time spent standing the watch as a fully qualified OOD / EOOW is suspect. That is one issue.
    Secondly, lack of fuel $$ for underway training has made proficiency difficult to achieve. Check the last 15 years of congressional budgeting. It isn’t as though the CNO did not request more funding for training. As a military officer, you make due with what you have. When it comes up short, Congress doesn’t take the fall, you do.