Commander of Canadian warship removed, second-in-command found guilty of misconduct
HMCS Calgary returns to Victoria Friday Oct. 24, 2008. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Deddeda Stemler)
VICTORIA -- The commander of a Canadian frigate has been removed and his second-in-command found guilty of three charges of misconduct, just two months before the ship is due to deploy.
Cmdr. Jonathan Kouwenberg was relieved of his command of HMCS Calgary and replaced by Cmdr. Alex Barlow on Jan. 20.
Four days prior, the ship's second-in command, Lt.-Cmdr. John Forbes, was found guilty on three counts of misconduct in a trial in Esquimalt, B.C. Forbes was fined $3,000, given a reprimand and relieved of his duty as HMCS Calgary's executive officer.
According to the Royal Canadian Navy's Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC), the highly unusual removals of the officers are not related.
The commander of Canada's Pacific fleet, Commodore Angus Topshee, said in a statement to CTV News that Kouwenberg's removal "was required to ensure that Calgary could attain the highest level of readiness prior to deploying."
Topshee said the ship had recently completed readiness training in preparation for deployment in April, but the ship "was unable to achieve the level of readiness required" under Kouwenberg's command.
As head of the Pacific fleet, Topshee added that Kouwenberg remains "an effective officer" who faces no disciplinary action related to his removal.
Lt.-Cmdr. tampered with smoke and heat detectors
The removal HMCS Calgary's second-in-command comes after Forbes "violated the trust placed upon him" while on a recent port visit in San Diego, according to Topshee.
On Dec. 13, the lieutenant-commander was found to have tampered with smoke and heat detectors inside the ship's mess, or wardroom, "for the purpose of smoking," Topshee said.
"Lieutenant-Commander Forbes then proceeded to smoke in the wardroom and by virtue of his position he encouraged subordinate officers to smoke as well," the fleet commander said.
"By virtue of his rank and position on board the ship, his actions encouraged subordinate officers to act against well-established rules," Topshee added.
While Forbes was fined $3,000, relieved of his command and reprimanded, further disciplinary action will be considered, according to Topshee.
Deployment will require 'period of transition'
HMCS Calgary is scheduled to deploy from Esquimalt to the Asia-Pacific region in April.
Despite the removal of the Calgary's top brass, the navy says the impact on its upcoming deployment is expected to be minimal.
"In terms of morale and stability, there will be a period of transition," Topshee said. "Building up morale and establishing trust between the command team and crew is therefore of the utmost importance during this time, and one of the top priorities of the incoming commanding officer."
Topshee described Barlow, the ship's new commanding officer, as an "experienced, high-readiness commander." Barlow recently led HMCS Ottawa on a successful deployment in the Asia-Pacific.
The ship's crew will participate in maritime security and North Korean sanctions-enforcement missions as part of Operation Projection and Operation Neon until July.