I put my uniform on this morning to head into work like I have for the past 8 years. Today, though, felt different.
My Navy family had a really tough weekend. Seven of my shipmates didn’t make it home, and almost 300 others lived a sailor’s worst nightmare.
I have no doubt that some level of human error played a part in the accident. There will be painstaking thorough investigations that will analyze thousands of data points to try to understand how such an accident could occur. This is important, because we must be able to learn from our mistakes, and hold people accountable for their actions. As retired Admiral John Kirby wrote on Sunday for CNN,
“That’s the way it's always been. It's the way it has to be. Because the American people must have trust and confidence in the men and women who command their sons and daughters, who lead them into harm's way. If they don't -- or they can't -- have that trust and confidence, well, we can't man the ships we put to sea. And the Navy can't defend the nation.”
However, before one judges the readiness of the crew, or how well the Captain commanded his ship, know this: The Fighting Fitz’s crew saved their ship this weekend. They executed their damage control procedures that they had been trained to do over and over again, and were able to save many of their shipmates and their ship. That is something the American people should be incredibly proud of.
Every sailor is trained to escape from their berthing compartment blindfolded within the first few hours of reporting on board. That training probably saved countless lives this weekend.
We are also trained to make really difficult decisions in order to save our ship. I have no doubt that the sailors that responded to the flooding will be haunted by the cold, dark water that roused them out of bed, but they acted heroically and brought their ship home under its own power. I have shed so many tears this weekend for my fallen shipmates, and for my incredibly courageous colleagues who were cold, wet, and exhausted for over 16 hours and continued to ensure there would be no more casualties.
I find myself, a few months away from joining a crew very similar to Fitzgerald’s, understanding more heavily than ever the weight of my role. I will oversee the Engineering Department on my ship. The same department that is charged with ensuring all sailors are trained and ready to respond to casualties just like this.
This incident feels incredibly personal to me. Not only do I know someone onboard, but I also know that it could have happened to my ship. The crew is getting tons of support in Japan, but will continue to need it for a while. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, and continue to support in any way you can.