LCS Commanding Officer Fired after Ship Breakdown

CDR Michael L. Atwell (Photo: US Navy)
CDR Michael L. Atwell (Photo: US Navy)

An investigation into the littoral combat ship Fort Worth's engine breakdown in Singapore has led to the firing of the ship's commanding officer.

Cmdr. Michael Atwell was relieved today following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding an engineering casualty that sidelined the Fort Worth Jan. 12.

"While the investigation is still under review by leadership, sufficient findings of facts emerged during the investigation to warrant the relief of the commanding officer," officials with U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a news release.

A Pacific Fleet spokesman, Lt. Clint Ramsden, said the investigation, which was initiated by Task Force 73 Commander Rear Adm. Charles Williams, remains under leadership review. The extent of damage to the ship and the investigation's full conclusions regarding Atwell's actions have not been published, he said.

But, he said, "sufficient details emerged during the course of the investigation to warrant [Atwell's] relief."

Ramsden confirmed that the damage to the Fort Worth was the result of user error. During the startup of the main propulsion diesel engines, he said, lubrication oil was not properly applied to the ship's combining gears. This resulted in high temperature alarms to the port and starboard combining gears, he said.

In the wake of his relief, Atwell has been temporarily re-assigned to Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 1 in San Diego, according to the release. In his place, Cmdr. Lex Walker, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7, will take on temporary duties as Fort Worth commanding officer until a permanent commander is chosen.

The Fort Worth remains in Singapore while decisions are made as to how to fix it, officials said.

"We're weighing all options with regard to repair, so that's still an ongoing process," Ramsden said.

The second in the Freedom class of littoral combat ships, the Fort Worth had been on a 16-month deployment in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, hailed as a milestone of success for the LCS program.

Note: This story was updated to correct the attribution in the 6th paragraph.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.


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