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Navy warship commander fired

Cmdr. Brad Tonder, commanding officer of the USS Sioux City (LCS 11), fires a grenade launcher during a live- fire exercise, Sept. 23, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Juel Foster/Released)
February 15, 2022

The commander of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Sioux City’s (LCS-11) Gold Crew was relieved of his command on Friday.

The Navy announced Capt. Amy Graham, the commodore of Surface Division (CSD) 21, relieved Sioux City Cmdr. Bradford Tonder. The Navy did not specify exactly why Tonder was relieved but said the action was taken “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to perform his duties.”

Cmdr. Joseph Caldwell, the commanding officer of USS Detroit’s (LCS 7) Blue Crew will temporarily replace Tonder as the USS Sioux City’s commanding officer.

Littoral combat ships like USS Sioux City operate on a two-crew model. Each ship has a Blue and a Gold crew. The ships typically cycle to their deployment locations and change crew roles every four or five months. The Navy says this “Blue/Gold” crew model “allows for individual Sailor training/school attendance, team trainer completion, Sailor advanced qualification completion, and crew leave” and “provides more forward presence with a better blend of ownership, stability, and increased training for each crew.”

Tonder had served as the executive officer on USS Sioux City since June 2019 and as the ship’s commanding officer since December 2020.

With his loss of command, Tonder will now be temporarily reassigned to the staff of Naval Surface Squadron (CNSS) 14. It is typical for relieved commanders to be reassigned to staff positions will their cases are reviewed and military leaders decide whether or not to separate them entirely from service.

The Navy said there is no impact to the ship’s schedule or operations with the decision to relieve Tonder.

USS Sioux City returned to its homeport at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. on Dec. 17, 2021 after its most recent deployment. The ship’s Gold Crew, along with the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 4, had deployed about three months earlier on Sept. 7. The ship was deployed in support of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean.

During the deployment with SOUTHCOM, USS Sioux City and embarked members of the U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 102, intercepted about 3,360 kilograms of cocaine, with an estimated street value of over $235 million. The ship also stopped 14 drug trafficking suspects during the mission.

“This team set out to make deployment great, and we succeeded,” Tonder had said after his ship returned from deployment in December. “We executed our mission, seizing or disrupting the flow of over $230 million in narcotics. We trained and increased interoperability with our partner nations and normalized LCS capabilities by operating the ship as we do in our simulators. USS Sioux City is an extremely capable platform, and our Sailors are the best in the Fleet. I could not be more proud of this ship and crew.”