The Japan-based guided-missile destroyer Howard, whose commanding officer was fired Saturday, suffered a “soft grounding” this month as it pulled into Bali for a scheduled port visit, according to Navy officials.
“On the morning of Aug. 10, USS Howard (DDG 83) experienced an apparent soft grounding shortly before arriving in Bali, Indonesia, for a scheduled port visit,” Lt. Luka Bakic, a spokesperson for U.S. 7th Fleet, said in an email to Navy Times. “Upon indication of potential grounding, watch standers took immediate action to protect the crew and the ship.”
“The ship was able to return to normal operations under its own power and propulsion,” Bakic said. “There were no injuries as a result of the mishap.”
The incident is currently under investigation, according to Bakic.
The Navy relieved the destroyer’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Kenji Igawa, from his duties Saturday “due to loss of confidence in his ability to command,” the service said in a statement. The Navy did not specifically say that the grounding and Igawa’s ouster are connected.
“Cmdr. Igawa will be administratively reassigned to the staff of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet,” the Navy said in a statement Sunday.
Capt. Edward Angelinas, the former commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser Robert Smalls and guided-missile destroyer John McCain, is filling in as commanding officer until a permanent replacement is identified for the Howard.
Angelinas assumed command of the McCain in October 2017, after the ship’s commanding officer and executive officer were fired following the vessel’s fatal collision in August. The mishap killed 10 sailors.
Igawa, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2004, previously served as the executive officer of the Howard. He became the commanding officer of the ship in December 2022.
In June, the Navy released a news story about Igawa and his journey as a Japanese-American naval officer. After graduating from the Naval Academy, Igawa served as a communications officer providing linguistic skills and cultural insight into Japanese culture aboard the guided-missile destroyer Stethem, based in Yokosuka, Japan, according to the story.
“It’s an honor, and privilege to be working alongside and for my captain, Cmdr. Kenji Igawa,” Howard’s Command Master Chief Jarriel C. Gardner said in the Navy news release.
“You won’t find a more selfless and hard-working leader – an American of Americans, and it’s amazing to see a commanding officer in charge of a U.S. warship stationed in Japan with ethnic roots that tie him back to Japan,” Gardner said.
Retired surface warfare officer Bradley Martin, now a a senior policy analyst with the Rand Corp. and director of their National Security Supply Chain Institute, said in an email to Navy Times that the definition of “soft grounding” is a bit subjective.
Typically though, a soft grounding means the ship could maneuver free with its own power and encountered only slight damage, he said. In contrast, a hard grounding means the ship needed assistance to maneuver free and suffered significant damage.
The Howard is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and is assigned to Commander, Task Force 71/Destroyer Squadron 15.
In July, the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship Alan Shepard ran aground in Bahrain at the ASRY shipyard in Al Hidd. The ship didn’t suffer any significant damage, and no personnel sustained injuries. The incident remains under investigation.