I may well be the only Globe reader today who has actually commanded a nuclear-powered warship carrying nuclear weapons.

I spent 23 years in the U.S. Navy, almost all of those years on board nuclear submarines, as first a junior officer, later an engineering officer, then executive officer, then commanding officer, followed by several years overseeing the operations of other nuclear submarines. I have deep professional knowledge and experience in such matters.

Having seen men make grave mistakes, and others achieving spectacular results as well, I also know from experience what not to do as a commanding officer, particularly when in an emergency.

Events on USS Theodore Roosevelt were a grave emergency, no doubt. But many times over two centuries, American military commanders have faced sweeping disease-control situations, so this in not the first time a warship or other large military group of men, and now women, has faced that situation, nor will it be the last.

What Capt. Brian Crozier did, while in command of the carrier, was to violate the most fundamental principle of command at sea in an emergency. He panicked because of extreme stress, pure and simple. He also was obviously mad as hell about what others, in his view, were not doing for him and his ship.

I have read a lot of public information regarding this situation, but most of it you in Joplin will never read. There is a whole range of factual articles in the military press only, not published in the Globe or mainstream media. My conclusions regarding Crozier's failures come from such military articles in publications with expertise in such matters, certainly not the Globe, with zero expertise in how to command a warship in an emergency.

Not only did Crozier clearly panic, when he sent an entirely unofficial email, instead of official means of communicating with his chain of command, he failed miserably to do the things within his own authority and responsibility to protect his crew but also his ship and his mission(s).

For example, in an emergency, any commanding officer can "abandon ship," in a dire emergency. No one can tell him to do that or tell him not to do that. He alone has the authority and responsibility to take that action under the authority from centuries of tradition — and naval regulations — to order his crew off his ship.

Crozier, in fact, requested permission to order 90% of his crew to leave the ship — a ship with massive nuclear reactors, a vast array of nuclear and conventional weapons on board, hundreds of aircraft, etc. That in itself was a ridiculous request when he could have ordered such actions under the lawful authority provided to any commanding officer. But he did not use that authority to do what he thought proper. He simply passed the buck and did so in a manner that undercut the entire chain of command — both civilian and military — in an emergency.

His email — again, not an official form of communication — created tremendous fear, anger and distrust in the entire chain of command during the time of a global, national and military emergency.

There are many other things I could write on this matter but will refrain from doing so. Just let it be said, by me at least, the Globe (April 10) had no business at all opining on a matter it knows nothing about. If ever there was a time to let experts speak, this is a classic incident of such.

Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin.

Recommended for you