News Branch Navy

Navy fires captain of a destroyer for ‘loss of confidence’

Cameron Dennis, who joined the Navy in 1993 as an enlisted sailor, is the second captain of the USS Howard to be relieved in six months.
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Cmdr. Cameron Dennis was relieved as the commanding officer of the USS Howard, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The Navy cited a "lack of confidence" in Dennis' ability to lead, a boiler plate phrase cited in nearly every Navy relief of command. Photo U.S. Navy

The captain of the guided-missile destroyer USS Howard was relieved of command “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to perform his duties,” the Navy said in a release.

Commander Cameron Dennis, who took command of the ship in September 2023, was relieved on February 6 by the Commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, Capt. Justin Harts.

The Navy generally does not disclose the specific reasons behind a ship captain’s firing and did not in Dennis’s case. Instead, the phrase “loss of confidence” is almost universally announced as the reason for relief, regardless of the underlying rationales.

Dennis, a Texas native, has had a notably long career in the Navy, spending three decades in uniform, according to his official biography. He ascended to command as a “mustang,” a Navy nickname for enlisted sailors who ascend into the officer ranks. Dennis enlisted in 1993 as a fireman and was commissioned in 2006 after graduating from the University of Idaho with degrees in electrical and computer engineering and a minor in applied mathematics.

Dennis is the second CO of the Howard to be relieved in six months. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which is homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, suffered a “soft-grounding” near Bali, Indonesia in August 2023, leading to the firing of the captain a week later. Dennis was assigned to a different ship at the time, according to his Navy biography. A “soft-grounding” is when a ship strikes the sea bottom but is able to free itself without damage or assistance.

Dennis has deployed extensively to the Western Pacific, South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf. Prior to assuming command of the Howard, Dennis served for two years as the Executive Officer of USS Higgins, which is also an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

The Navy relieved 16 commanders in 2023, eight of whom were the captains of a warship (two were pulled from command for medical reasons unrelated to performance, the Navy told Task & Purpose). So far this year, the captain of a nuclear submarine was relieved in January after he was arrested for driving under the influence.

Dennis’s decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (four awards), Navy Achievement Medal (three awards), and other personal, unit and campaign awards. He was also selected as Shiphandler of the Year for Destroyer Squadron TWO THREE in 2009.

Correction

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CORRECTION: (2/6/2024); A previous version of this story incorrectly noted an informal Navy term for an enlisted sailor who becomes an officer. The term is a “mustang.”