The Navy has removed from duty the commander of the Pearl Harbor-based guided missile destroyer USS Hopper due to leadership issues and problems with crew morale, officials said Thursday.
Cmdr. Kathryn Dawley took command of the Hopper in April of last year, the first woman to do so. In announcing her removal, the Pacific Fleet said it was “due to a loss of confidence in her leadership.”
Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. James Adams explained that the decision was “based on her overall performance in this critical leadership billet. Morale of the crew played a large factor in the decision to remove her from command.”
The removal took effect on Tuesday. Capt. Don Rauch, the deputy commander of Destroyer Squadron 31, was placed in temporary command of the Hopper “until a permanent relief can be identified,” Adams said.
Morale problems have been a frequent point of concern among the Pacific Fleet since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago. The Navy has continued conducting near-constant operations across the Pacific amid rising tensions with China, putting unique demands on sailors.
In January, a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Pearl Harbor-based USS Chafee became public when crew members leaked documents to the Navy Times and spoke out about dismal morale on the ship. A Chief Petty officer on the Chafee told the Navy Times that “the morale is like nothing I’ve ever seen on board. Sailors on board are just defeated and don’t know what to do.”
The Hopper is named after Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, who enlisted in the Navy Reserves during World War II and became a key figure in computer science. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and developed several programming languages.
Dawley, a Guthrie Center, Iowa, native, enlisted in the Navy in 1997 and received her commission from Old Dominion University in 2003, according to a press release about her assumption of command.
“Hopper has been my dream since I commissioned,” she was quoted as saying at the time. “As a role model, Rear Adm. Grace Hopper embodied the qualities of a naval officer that I strive to be; strong, confident, and fearless.”
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Kevin Knodell covers the military and veterans in Hawaii and the greater Pacific for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms.