Oh, Here We Go

| April 8, 2021

Cmdr. Kathryn Dawley

Cmdr. Kathryn Dawley, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer Hopper, was removed from her position after officials say Dawley’s superiors lost confidence in her ability to command. (Screengrab from Navy Facebook Live video)

Let’s just get down to the nitty-gritty on this.

The female CO of USS Hopper has been fired; she is the 2nd CO to be fired on that ship. The prior CO dismissed was a man, so before you all go all ‘see, whaddItellya’ on me, consider that maybe she’s just a lousy boss, okay? It’s entirely likely that she was in over her head, among other things.


From the article:  The Navy fired the guided-missile destroyer Hopper’s skipper on Tuesday after her leadership negatively affected the crew’s morale.

Cmdr. Kathryn Dawley was relieved by Capt. Kenneth Athans, Destroyer Squadron 31’s commodore, over a “loss of confidence in her leadership,” Navy officials announced Wednesday. An official familiar with the circumstances said the decision was based on Dawley’s overall performance in “this critical leadership billet.”

“Morale of the crew played a large factor in the decision to remove her from command,” the official said.

Capt. Don Rauch, Destroyer Squadron 31’s deputy commander, has assumed command temporarily until a permanent replacement is identified. – article

I could analyze this to death, but having worked for and with both male and female supervisors in the civilian world, my response is that there are plenty of competent people in the work world, and others who shouldn’t be given responsibility for anything more important than counting pencils and pens in the supply room.

Some people simply do not make good supervisors or COs/XOs, period, and it has nothing to do with their anatomy. Got that part?

If loss of morale in the crew and loss of confidence in the CO are the issue with Dawley, and apparently with the other CO who was also fired, that is what needs to be addressed. People are either good bosses/leaders, or they are not, civilian or otherwise, male or female. The bad bosses are responsible for the loss of good employees and the good bosses are just the opposite, seldom losing anyone to another employer.

Category: "The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves", "Your Tax Dollars At Work", Navy

Comments (29)

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  1. OWB says:

    Replacing someone who was fired is almost always a very tough assignment. It calls for some highly specific skills. Most of us just don’t have that skill set. That is in addition to those skills required to successfully command anything under ideal circumstances.

    So, no, I wouldn’t expect it to be an easy assignment, and certainly not one which anyone without a good deal of previous command success is likely to do well.

    • 5JC says:

      BTDT with my second command. Not easy to restore morale and trust in the leadership, especially when the last person was mistreating people in the unit directly.

      In her defense just commanding a GMD, looks from the outside in, to be one of the toughest jobs on the planet.

      • MustangCryppie says:

        There is no better job in the Navy than command at sea. If I did it all over again and “only” got to command a tin can, I would die happy.

        Tin cans forever!

  2. ChipNASA says:

    Third time’s a charm….!!


    At least they didn’t hit anything.

  3. Sapper3307 says:

    The Woke are eating their own.

  4. John Seabee says:

    It would be interesting [and perhaps entertaining] to hear what the feelings were in the Goat Locker. I suspect that their input was a causative factor in BOTH shit cans. JMO

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      I would like to know that, too, but it won’t be available for a while. Eventually (I hope), the real reasons will surface.

  5. STSC(SW/SS) says:

    “and others who shouldn’t be given responsibility for anything more important than counting pencils and pens in the supply room.”

    I don’t think Biden even qualifies for that task.

  6. A good leader leads through example and not through fear and intimidation. Different times than when I served.

  7. Devtun says:

    Another Holly Graf?

  8. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    One of the biggest mistakes we make in the civilian business world, and the military leadership world is assuming that because someone is good at a particular task or set of skills they would be good at managing those tasks or others with those same skills.

    One of our best production people is one of our worst managers. I keep hoping mentoring and coaching will alter that reality, but I’m getting close to the “shit in one hand, wish in the other” moment I fear.

    Same could be true here, someone good at being a second isn’t necessarily the best option for a first…the military lacks some of the discretionary ability we private sector wienies have and as a result some folks get a chance to prove how bad they are at leadership before it’s discovered at the upper levels.

    As ChipNASA said, at least they didn’t hit anything and get anyone killed before discovering that reality.

    • Ret_25X says:


      • Hondo says:


        Some of the most effective organizations I’ve ever worked/served in had a distinct “vision/inspiration/morale” vs. “run the day-to-day business” split in responsibility and focus between the #1 and #2 positions in said organizations.

        And leading/managing those two areas indeed require distinct and very different skill sets. IMO it’s fairly rare to find someone who excels at both.

    • Sparks says:

      The Peter Principle. It has been proven over and over to be true.

  9. Ret_25X says:

    picking leaders is tough…it must be a nearly monumental task for command at sea.

    One of the problems is that the system we use to evaluate “leadership” really is only paper deep. Some folks look great on those evals, but really are not.

    She may have been great all along in the jobs she had, but was never the “right” pick for command.

    It happens…and the troops always pay the price.

    However, there is another possibility here. She may be the victim of a higher level leader’s toxicity…something she could not fight and pissed off the crew and which they blame her for….

    Seen it happen a couple times…

  10. Sparks says:

    Jeff wrote above and quite correctly, “A good leader leads through example and not through fear and intimidation. Different times than when I served.”

    A good leader leads by a good example and that is by what they set. A poor leader who cannot set an example leads by fear, intimidation, and improper delegation.

    I wrote this above and I believe it to be the case here and many other leadership fails in the military. The Peter Principle in action. An Officer is stellar at the current post they are serving. But due to many factors, which now include social equality, that stellar performance is wrongly assumed to continue being stellar in a higher position. The problem is, they are great where they are but lack the many skills to command a ship. I was not in the Navy, but I think that the difference between being a great XO and a skillful and competent Captain is HUGE.

    The Peter Principle in a nutshell. “People will be promoted to their highest level of incompetence.”

  11. KoB says:

    Did IDC SARC hit it? Asking for a friend.

    FIRST (ht 2 Lurker Curt) Rule of Leadership is you take care of your people and they will take care of you.

  12. Slow Joe says:

    As always, Ex-PH2 defends female service members regardless of their performance. How is different from people who defend others for simply belonging to the same ethnic group or political affiliation?

    Loss of morale covers a very, big, massive, spectrum of issues.

    I want to see details of what happened, only then I will decide if I support one side or the other.

    Facts before emotions.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Nah, nah, nah, Joe, I did NOT defend her. I simply put the info in front of people and let them form their own opinions. I have run into too many people in the civilian work world who got a little upward movement and let it go to their heads, with the result being that they were helped out the doors very quickly.

      There are undoubtedly some mitigating circumstances that made Graf inadequate, which are not included in the rather skimpy article.

      Be that as it may, Graf is/was out of line in how she acted as the HMIC, and that is the real issue. She’d have been better off at a lower level of authority. IF she takes her missteps and her bad behavior to the civilian world (meaning NOT the Pentagon, etc.), she will fail miserably at running anything at all.

      And you know as well as I do that if you really do have authority of any kind, you don’t have to stomp on people at lower levels to get them to do their jobs properly.

  13. Penguinman000 says:

    If 2 skippers are relieved in a row it would seem to indicate to a reasonable person there are much larger problems than simply a bad officer.

    Then again I was trained to identify the problem and affix a solution. Not assign blame.

    • Only Army Mom says:

      Penguin –
      my thoughts exactly. I watched two senior managers get the axe and declined when “my turn” came…until the director was changed. Because the morale problem was the senior manager trying to implement the un-implementable policies, procedures, and protocols of the toxic director.

      Likewise, if the middle tier is toxic, it doesn’t matter who is at the top as the morale of the rank and file will suffer…if those who the middle tier report to don’t have the authority and only have the responsibility for what the middle tier does. Or doesn’t do. This has been, in my opinion, the endemic problem at my state veterans affairs. In this case, veterans in nursing homes suffer and rather than address the entrenched, union bureaucrats, they keep changing the cover.

  14. Mustang Major says:

    My infantry battalion commander said it hard to identify a screwed-up infantry unit in peacetime. His reasoning went along the lines that in peacetime if ships collided, run aground, sink, or crew mutiny, you know the command is screwed up. It’s the same case for the Air Force if aircraft crash or can’t get off the ground.