Two commanding officers were removed from the HMCS Calgary. (Black Press Media file photo)

Navy officer dismissed after dismantling smoke detectors, encouraging smoking on HMCS Calgary

Commanding officer also replaced aboard HMCS Calgary

Two CFB Esquimalt officers from HMCS Calgary have been removed from their positions after failing to meet Royal Canadian Navy standards.

The two removals occurred in a similar time frame, after time on the same vessel, but are otherwise unrelated.

The first was the removal of the Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jonathan Kouwenberg, who was in charge of a recent sailing on HMCS Calgary. The trip down to California focused on training to prepare crews for two upcoming missions.

“HMCS Calgary recently completed readiness training in preparation for a deployment and was unable to achieve the level of readiness required,” said Commodore Angus Topshee, commander of Canadian Fleet Pacific in an emailed statement. “It was assessed that new leadership, in the form of the Commanding Officer, would better allow the ship to achieve that level prior to the deployment this summer.”

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Kouwenberg was replaced by Cmdr. Alex Barlow, who took over on Jan. 20. Previously, Barlow was the Commanding Officer of HMCS Ottawa. Kouwenberg will continue to be employed and trained as a Naval Warfare Officer with no administrative action taken against him.

The second incident resulted in the dismissal of Lt.-Comdr. John Forbes, who was the executive officer on HMCS Calgary. Forbes faced a summary trial on Jan. 16 after it came to light that he had dismantled the smoke/heat detectors in the Wardroom so that he could smoke inside. Forbes also invited his subordinate officers to smoke with him.

“The actions of Lieutenant-Commander Forbes violated the trust placed upon him by the RCN [Royal Canadian Navy] as a member of HMCS Calgary’s command team,” Topshee said. “By virtue of his rank and position on board the ship, his actions encouraged subordinate officers to act against well-established rules.”

Forbes was charged with three counts of misconduct and fined $3,000, and was relieved of his position. Further administrative action is still being considered.

ALSO READ: No charges laid in reported sexual assault at CFB Esquimalt

“The impact to operations is anticipated to be minimal. The management of both events will take a few days to finalize, but once the incoming Commanding Officer is installed, operations will resume as scheduled,” Topshee said.

“In terms of morale and stability, there will be a period of transition. Building up morale and establishing trust between the command team and crew is therefore of the utmost importance during this time, and one of the top priorities of the incoming Commanding Officer.”

HMCS Calgary is set to deploy to the Asia-Pacific region on operations Projection and Neon from April to July.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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