USS Cowpens captain relieved

Navy report: Skipper retreated to cabin for weeks during deployment

The Associated Press
Published: August 7, 2014

File photo of Capt. Gregory Gombert.

3rd Cowpens commander fired since 2010; CMC relieved

The commanding officer of the USS Cowpens, Capt. Gregory W. Gombert, and the command master chief, Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton, were relieved by Rear Adm. Michael Smith on Tuesday.
SAN DIEGO — A Navy investigation finds the ailing skipper of a San Diego-based Navy cruiser retreated to his cabin for several weeks in the middle of a deployment, leaving the 330-member crew leaderless.

The probe also revealed that the skipper of the USS Cowpens, Capt. Gregory W. Gombert, was having an improper and “unduly familiar” relationship with the cruiser’s acting executive officer, U-T San Diego reported Wednesday.

The Navy removed Gombert and the ship’s command master chief, Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton, from their positions on June 10. The reason given at the time was poor ship condition.

Gombert’s medical problems were not disclosed, but investigators said they should not have left him unable to lead. They also shouldn’t have required him to retreat to his cabin from early January through March, officials said.

“The violations revealed by the investigation, especially the blatant abdication of command responsibility on the part of the (commanding officer), are among the most egregious I have encountered in my 32-year career,” wrote Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, the three-star admiral in charge of the Navy’s Pacific surface ships.

At a July 25 administrative hearing, Gombert was found guilty of several counts of disobeying an order and conduct unbecoming an officer. So was the former acting executive officer, whom the newspaper identified in a Navy photo from March as Lt. Cmdr. Destiny Savage.

Neither Gombert nor Savage could immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Keeton was found guilty of two counts of disobeying an order, apparently because he failed to notify anyone outside the ship of the troubles on board - despite telling crew members that he would.

The investigation found the skipper’s unacceptable absence from the bridge predated his illness.

Of the 48 “special evolutions” that the ship performed - tricky maneuvers such as getting close to a refueling ship - Gombert was on the bridge for just 27, according to U-T San Diego.

His health-related seclusion began in mid-January, when he came down with an illness that required bed rest for 10 to 20 days, according to the investigation.

Gombert told his superiors that he questioned his ability to lead on two of those days and later said he considered asking for convalescent time, but decided against it.

As for Gombert’s relationship with Savage, the newspaper reported that starting in December, the crew noticed the two officers spent evenings alone in Gombert’s cabin, with the door closed. Savage frequently was seen making dinner for Gombert in his cabin and keeping her toiletries in his private bathroom there, according to investigators.

Also, the investigation said, the two went away for days together during port visits.

The XO Lt.Cdr. Destiny Savage, sounds like she did a decent job as acting CO in the Capt.s stead from some articles I’ve read. The fact that they were fraternizing though is why the Navy’s killing her career too.

Bill Halsey must be having a fit of apoplexy in his grave right about now…

Admiral Farragut would disapprove.


© 2014

CAPT Gregory Gombert"What? Not again!"

That’s what many sailors in the Pacific Fleet are saying in the wake of news that the third skipper in four years on the USS Cowpens has been relieved of command.

Also walking the plank, is the guided-missile cruiser’s top enlisted member, CMC Gabriel Keeton.

They were sacked by REAR ADM Michael Smith, boss of Carrier Strike Group 3, Naval Surface Forces.


The “official reason” for CAPT Gregory Gombert’s relief is, the troubled ship allegedly failed a number of inspections after the Cowpens returned from deployment.

Maybe that’s it. But sources tell us Gombert was highly-respected and very competent - two things the shrieking shrew “Horrible Holly” Graf never was - and may have been caught in “political cross-hairs.”

CAPT Gombert, a Notre Dame grad, is a seasoned commander, having won praise for his handling of the destroyer Gridley. His prior record in the Navy is impeccable. So what gives?


Is there a “curse” hanging over the Cowpens?

One reader e-mailed: “Why not change the name of the ship, or just sink her?” Another suggested a complete crew change, from seaman to skipper.

Some think the “ghost” of foul-mouthed feminist Holly Graf haunts the cruiser. She’s not dead yet, a big disappointment to some of our readers who said they suffered greatly under her reign of terror, so the “horrible” one can hardly wear a white sheet and go “BOO.” She hasn’t croaked.

But something is clearly wrong with the Cowpens.


Whether Graf was an ugly, out-of-control, man-hating bull dyke, or not, isn’t the answer.

The second skipper to be relieved, CAPT Robert Marin, stepped on his own dick in 2012 when he was accused of having an affair with another officer’s wife.

CAPT Gombert’s firing remains a mystery until we find out more details. From what his former crew members have told us, he is a good and decent man who deserves better than this.

This smells of bad politics.

There’s way more to the story (it’s worse too) than what is reported by the AP. It’s a testament to the rest of the crew’s capabilities that nothing terrible happened despite the terrible senior leadership. Commander Salamander, a great navy blog, has much more detailed coverage of this plus the redacted report and around 300 comments too.

They would both have gotten promotions and medals if Savage was a man or Gombert a woman.

Destiny Savage sounds like a porn star name.

Sorta does. Of course, if you want tabloid photos of all relieved you’ve gotta read the British news:

And that my fine fellows is the modern US NAVEE!

Ahh you said it before me! I really think it sounds like she did a good job in leadership. Sounds like she’s just being steamrolled by politics instead.

She may have done an outstanding job and possibly should have been commended. The issue appears to be she was being steamrolled by the CO. The master chief is being steamrolled he was prolly the real brains behind the whole operation during that time.

[QUOTE=Fraqrat;142101]She may have done an outstanding job and possibly should have been commended. The issue appears to be she was being steamrolled by the CO. The master chief is being steamrolled he was prolly the real brains behind the whole operation during that time.[/QUOTE]

I feel like I am missing something. For one, why is the ship running around with out an XO? Of all the Department heads on the ship, the engineer is the hardest working one. If savage was the ship’s ENG, then who is running engineering: the LPOs, chiefs, or DivOs? Were the enlisted guys picking up too much slack which caused the CMC to find himself under the bus?

Forget all that. I feel like I am missing something because I just can’t grasp how a captain with 20 some years experience would just so carelessly throw it all away. I’ve seen plenty of knucklehead moves in my day, but the biggest boneheads are the ones with nothing to lose. What am I missing? That’s why I’m wondering if there is more to this story, maybe some sort of dirty politics.