What Gets Naval Officers Fired?

The Navy has fired fourteen skippers this year. Eleven of those were for personal misconduct.

Raymond Pritchett (aka Galrahn) passes along a Navy Times list of skippers relieved of command this year:

• Capt. John Titus Jr. was fired Jan. 8 as CO of the Naval Supply Corps School in Georgia. His removal followed a judge advocate general’s investigation; a spokesman declined to disclose the nature of the investigation.

• Capt. Holly Graf was fired Jan. 13 as CO of the Yokosuka, Japan-based cruiser Cowpens after an inspector general’s investigation found problems with her “temperament and demeanor,” a spokesman said.

• Capt. Glen Little was fired as CO of Naval Weapons Station Charleston, S.C., after he was arrested Jan. 26 on a charge of solicitation of prostitution.

• Cmdr. Scott Merritt was relieved as head of Naval Support Activity North Potomac on Feb. 12 following nonjudicial punishment. Sources told Navy Times the NJP involved fraternization with a junior Navy personnel.

• Cmdr. Timothy Weber, the commanding officer of the Norfolk, Va.-based destroyer Truxtun, was relieved Feb. 17 for having an inappropriate relationship with a female officer in his command, according to a Navy statement

• Capt. William Reavey Jr., CO of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., was fired Feb. 26 for “inappropriate conduct,” officials said.

• Cmdr. Jeff Cima, CO of the Pearl Harbor-based sub Chicago, was relieved of command March 15 for drunkenness and conduct unbecoming an officer, officials said

• Cmdr. Neil Funtanilla, CO of the destroyer The Sullivans, was relieved May 18 in Manama, Bahrain, after a non-judicial hearing found he was “derelict in the performance of his duties.” The destroyer struck a buoy in the Persian Gulf in March.

• Cmdr. Herman Pfaeffle was relieved as CO of the frigate John L. Hall for loss of confidence in his ability to command on June 22 after hitting a pier April 16 in Batumi, Georgia.

• Capt. William Kiestler was relieved June 30 as CO of of Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, cited a loss of confidence in Kiestler’s ability to command.

• Cmdr. Fred Wilhelm was relieved Aug. 12 as CO of the dock landing ship Gunston Hall. Rear Adm. Dave Thomas fired him after Wilhelm was “charged with sexual harassment, maltreatment of a subordinate, simple assault, conduct unbecoming an officer, drunk and disorderly conduct and use of indecent language.”

• Capt. David Schnell was relieved Aug. 15 as CO of the amphibious assault ship Peleliu by Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of 5th Fleet. The relief took place “as a result of an investigation into allegations that he acted in an unprofessional manner toward several crew members that was inappropriate, improper and unduly familiar.”

• Cmdr. Mary Ann Giese, CO of of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Bahrain, was fired Aug. 21 by Rear Adm. Edward Deets, head of Naval Network Warfare Command, after “a preliminary investigation into allegations that she had been involved in inappropriate relationships with other Navy personnel,” according to a statement from 10th Fleet.

Add to this Capt. David Simms, who was relieved as CO of the Trident Training Facility and Bangor, Washington because of “inappropriate personal behavior.”

What catches Ray’s eye is that, “There is so little specific information in each case that the list doesn’t really contribute to a specific discussion, just generic observations. Would more transparency into why a CO is fired be more useful? I am not convinced it would, but there is nothing useful about the lack of specific information why a CO is fired either. If the Navy is like any other large organization – details spread fast but the rumors aren’t always completely accurate.”

That’s an interesting question.  But what immediately jumped out at me was this:   The thing that gets you fired from command is personal misconduct:  inappropriate sexual activity, drunkeness, and criminal action.    That describes the causes for eleven  of the fourteen skippers noted above.   Only three were relieved for incompetent performance of their duties.  And all three of them actually ran their boat into something!  Doesn’t the Navy have any officers who just Peter Principle and suck at command?

I’d be interested to see how this list compares to those of the other services.   Certainly, there have been two Army generals relieved as ISAF commander alone over the last couple of years.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    Doesn’t the Navy have any officers who just Peter Principle and suck at command?

    Yes – the whole “loss in confidence in” bit is a catchphrase meaning pretty much that. The one with problems in “temperament and demeanor” is likely the same. There are lots of euphemisms in military justice…

  2. John Burgess says:

    The <a href=”http://formerspook.blogspot.com/”>Former Spook</a> blog often reports on disciplinary actions across the US military, but with special emphasis on the USAF.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Yes – the whole “loss in confidence in” bit is a catchphrase meaning pretty much that.

    Right. But he’s one of the guy who ran his ship into something.

    The one with problems in “temperament and demeanor” is likely the same.

    Ah.  I presumed it was another case of some sort of deviant personal conduct.

  4. DC Loser says:

    The UCMJ pretty much allows an officer to be disciplined for anything.  The entire Article 133 “conduct unbecoming an officer” is so wide open it covers almost everything not specifically stated in all the other articles.

  5. JKB says:

    The one with problems in “temperament and demeanor” is likely the same.
    Ah.  I presumed it was another case of some sort of deviant personal conduct.

    The Navy doesn’t relieve commanders because they make sailors cry or hurt their self esteem.  Captain Graf’s behavior was egregious and way beyond decency.   Check out  Article 15 « Neptunus Lex for details  and a discussion of why she went to an Admiral’s mast rather than a court martial.  This wasn’t “suck at command” it was “should never be a leader  of anyone anywhere, not even a pet”

  6. DC Loser says:

    @JKB – Yeah, she made Captain Queeg look like Hortio Hornblower.

  7. sam says:

    One of the more egregious cases I recall from a number of years ago was the sub driver who stole some guy’s (full) lobster traps. What a jerk, huh?

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    You don’t get fired as CO unless it’s pretty bad. Hitting things doesn’t necessarily mean your entire career is over (although sea commands are) but all the others where sex is basically the problem might as well retire because they’re going to be counting anchors for the rest of their service.