US Naval Commander Fired After USS Freedom Sustains Engine Damage at Sea

US Naval Commander Fired After USS Freedom Sustains Engine Damage at Sea

US 22:31 15.10.2016

Commander Michael R. Wohnhaas, from Crew 106 on the USS Freedom, became the second US Navy littoral ship commander this year to be relieved of his posts after the ship sustained engine damage in the summer.

In a Friday news release, the Naval Surface Force Pacific said that Wohnhaas was relieved on October 13 by commander of Naval Surface Forces, Pacific Fleet, Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, “due to loss of confidence in his ability to effectively lead and carry out his assigned duties,” according to Military.com 

The USS Mason (DDG 87), a guided missile destroyer, arrives at Port Canaveral, Florida, April 4, 2003

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REUTERS/ Karl Ronstrom/File photo

The release explained, “The loss of confidence followed an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding damage to the ship’s number 2 main propulsion diesel engine (#2 MPDE) that occurred in the operation areas off the coast of southern California on July 11,” and the Navy Times reports that “No final decision has been made yet on the options for follow-on repairs to Freedom related to the July 11 engineering casualty.”

Wohnhaas, a surface warfare officer by trade, was commissioned in 1996, and officials say he has been temporarily reassigned to the Naval Surface Force Forces Pacific. 

July’s engine breakdown marks the third for the Freedom class of ships this year, and began when seawater entered the engine lube oil system, caused by a leak in the mechanical seal of the ship’s seawater pump. The damage to the second main propulsion engine was discovered when the Freedom return to San Diego to port after its exercise, and engineers determined that the engine may need to be replaced if it can’t be rebuilt. 

Commander Michael Atwell of the LCS crew 101 aboard the USS Fort Worth was the first littoral ship commander to be relieved of his duties in March when the ship sustained damage to its propulsion system, causing it to be sidelined in Singapore.

When the casualty was first discovered, US Pacific Fleet spokesman  Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight told USNI news, “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…An investigation is underway to examine the incident in depth and determine any necessary corrective action. A team of technical specialists is currently on board Fort Worth to evaluate the gears and required repairs. There is no estimated date of completion at this time.”

After the investigation was complete,  Lt. Clint Ramsden, also a Pacific Fleet spokesman, said that “failure to maintain procedural compliance in execution of the maintenance operation was sufficient reason to call into question [Atwell’s] ability to lead the ship’s crew.”

Wohnhaas’s temporary replacement is Capt. Matthew McGonigle, deputy commodore of LCS Squadron One.

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