Personal Thoughts On The Hartford Collision
As we discussed in my original thread on last week's collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18), this wasn't the only incident Hartford has suffered; she also ran aground off La Maddalena in 2003, causing severe damage to her rudder. That grounding was very personal for me, because I had orders to be XO on USS Hartford in early 2003; only my medical disqualification from submarines kept me from being the boat's XO during that deployment.
It's been my observation that the best submariners, as a rule, are very self-confident; I think we have to be in order to be successful, like pilots and professional athletes. When we see something bad happen to another boat, we tend to think: "If I'd have been there, I would have kept that from happening." The thing is, the people who get caught up in the incidents have the same training and mindset the rest of us do. As I thought about the Hartford grounding, and if I would have prevented it had I been there as XO, I originally thought "Of course I would have. I always knew I'd recognize danger courses and put in time limits for dangerous piloting legs." Then, as I thought about it more, I decided a better attitude was, "There but for the grace of God go I."
I don't know if I could have prevented the original Hartford grounding, and I never will. I'm just glad no one was badly hurt, and the boat returned to full duty. Regarding this most recent incident, I don't know if Submariners onboard the boat made mistakes, and I don't know if I would have done any differently were I in their shoes. I'm just glad that they had the skill to return to port safely, and that none of the crew was (reportedly) injured seriously. When the Navy comes out with an official report, I'll see if there are new lessons to be learned. Until then, I'll just marvel at the technological wonders the Navy has made that travel beneath the waves and can survive unimaginable forces, and I'll be thankful for the men who man these vessels.