This past week, as a nation we had the difficult task of honoring and laying to rest seven Navy sailors after their destroyer, the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, was involved in a crash with a commercial ship, the ACX Crystal, registered in the Philippines.

While the Navy investigation into the cause of the accident unfolds, my heart is heavy alongside the rest of the Navy family. Earlier in my career, I captained the Fitzgerald’s sister ship, the U.S.S. Barry, so I am familiar with the layout and structure of the destroyer.

My best guess as to what happened in the Pacific off the coast of Japan that late Saturday night is that the crew suddenly saw the lights of the Crystal coming toward them and tried to veer off, but they were unable to clear the way in time.  The bottom line at the moment is that we just don’t know, and I suspect errors were made on the bridge of both ships.   I spoke about this with The New York Times earlier this week.  You can read the article here.

Many have asked, how can a crash like this happen? That area of the sea can be thought of as an eight-lane highway at night with ships moving at speed — but with no traffic lanes. Any sudden, erratic move by another ship poses an extreme risk with little time to react, exactly as if a car just ahead of you on the highway suddenly turned around. At night, it’s hard to match what you’re seeing with the radar images.

Several investigations are now underway to determine what happened. While sailors are already highly trained at everything from fighting fires to fighting flooding, I’m sure this crash will become the catalyst for even more extensive scenario training for the Navy help to avoid as similar incident. You can read more of my thoughts on the crash here in The Washington Post.

It’s extremely rare for a U.S. Navy destroyer to be involved in a collision with loss of life. In fact, it only happens about every one to two decades. However, this incident is a deep, powerful reminder of how fundamentally dangerous it is to operate warships at sea. I spoke with NBC Nightly News about the incident, as well.

The cost of losing those seven sailors will tragically never be recovered. It’s been a heartbreaking week for the good ship Fitzgerald and her captain.  The heroism of the entire crew in saving the ship is indeed noteworthy.

As always, thank you for reading.

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