Navy Relieves Skipper of Japan-Based Destroyer USS Howard

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Commander Kenji Igawa
Commander Kenji Igawa, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Howard, searches for a simulated surface contact before a live-fire exercise in the Philippine Sea, June 29. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Santiago Navarro)

The Navy has fired the commanding officer of the Japan-based destroyer USS Howard, according to a statement released Sunday.

"Cmdr. Kenji Igawa was relieved of command Aug. 19, 2023, by Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, due to loss of confidence in his ability to command," the Navy said in its statement.

The Navy said that Capt. Edward Angelinas will take over as the Howard's commander until permanent relief arrives. In the meantime, Igawa is being reassigned to the staff of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet.

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It does not appear that either the ship's executive officer or its top enlisted adviser were relieved.

Igawa took command of the Howard in December.

Although the Navy's statement did not go into why Igawa was relieved, he was being praised by the sea service only months prior in a story written by the staff of the commander of Naval Surface Forces.

In the story, which was published in July but since taken down, Igawa was described as one of only a few Japanese-American commissioned officers who was commanding a ship in "a region of high strategic importance to the U.S. and the world."

Military.com reviewed a version of the story that was captured by the Internet Archive the day the relief was announced.

The piece said that Igawa was a Naval Academy graduate who spent much of his naval career working in or around Japan. He served as a junior officer aboard another Japanese-based destroyer, the USS Stethem. He would also go on to work as the Japan Desk Chief for the Strategy Plans and Policy Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"It is an honor of a lifetime to be Howard's commanding officer," said Igawa about serving as the commanding officer in the piece.

Igawa is at least the fifth ship commander to be relieved this year by the Navy.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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