Navy fires skipper of Hawaii-based destroyer USS Hopper over morale problems

The guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper passes the Missing Man Formation Memorial on its way to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in 2014.


By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 7, 2021

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — The Navy relieved the first woman to command the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper on Tuesday “due to a loss of confidence in her leadership,” the service said Wednesday.

Cmdr. Kathryn Dawley had commanded the Pearl Harbor-based ship since April 2020.

The deputy commander of Destroyer Squadron 31, Capt. Don Rauch, has been placed in temporary command of the Hopper until a permanent leader is chosen, the Navy said.

Dawley’s removal stemmed from morale problems among the crew, not from any issues of misconduct, a Navy spokesperson, who did not wish to be identified, told Stars and Stripes by telephone on Wednesday.

The Hopper is named after Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, who enlisted in the Navy Reserves during World War II and had a long, notable career as a computer scientist.

Dawley was the first woman to command the Hopper, which was commissioned in 1997.

During the ceremony in which she took command in April 2020, Dawley said she regarded Grace Hopper as a role model who “embodied the qualities of a naval officer that I strive to be,” according to Navy news release at that time.

“Hopper has been my dream since I commissioned,” Dawley said of commanding the ship.

The ship is nearing completion of a three-year modernization at Pearl Harbor and is now preparing for sea trials.

This is the second time in three years that a Hopper skipper has been removed from command. Cmdr. Jeffrey Tamulevich was fired in May 2018 following allegations that he fraternized with a junior sailor.

Twitter: @WyattWOlson

Cmdr. Kathryn Dawley addresses the crew of the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper in a screenshot from a Facebook video posted March 12, 2021.