WASHINGTON — The Navy has fired the commander and second in charge of the coastal battleship Montgomery over “a loss of confidence in their ability to command,” the agency said Thursday.
cmdr. Richard J. Zamberlan, the skipper of the ship, and Cmdr. Phillip Lundberg, the ship’s executive officer, was relieved by Captain Marc Crawford, the commander of the Navy’s Surface Division 11, the navy said in a statement.
The Navy did not comment on the circumstances of the dismissals, but two Navy officials said the officers’ removal was the result of their handling of a sexual harassment investigation. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation.
It is unusual for the Navy to relieve a ship’s commander, let alone the top two officers, for any reason. In April, the Navy removed Cmdr. Kathryn J. Dawley as the skipper of the Hawaii-based guided-missile destroyer Hopper for what officials said was a poor command climate and crew morale.
In the case of Montgomery, based in San Diego, Commanders Zamberlan and Lundberg will be reassigned to desk positions at the Naval Surface Force headquarters of the Pacific Fleet. cmdr. Dustin Lonero, of the coastal battleship Coronado, was appointed captain of the Montgomery until a permanent replacement is appointed.
The Navy has been handling other command issues related to sexual harassment in recent months. In April, the admiral in charge of naval aviation maintenance depots, Rear Admiral Trent DeMoss, was released from office pending a general investigation by the naval inspector into sexual harassment complaints. That resignation was previously reported by USNI News.
Coastal battleships such as the Montgomery are a relatively new class of naval warships. They have joined the fleet over the past two years to operate in coastal areas, or waters close to shore, where larger vessels may have difficulty maneuvering.
Small and agile with crews of about 80 sailors, Independence-class coastal warships such as the Montgomery feature a futuristic-looking, all-aluminum trimaran design. In recent years, the Montgomery has patrolled disputed waterways such as the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea, which naval officials say is a signal to allies and adversaries that the United States is committed to protecting free and open international waters.
The new ships have experienced engine problems and other deficiencies, which naval officials say they have now fixed.