The Commanding Officer

Category: Ethics
Date added
Pages:  11
Words:  3391
Order Original Essay

How it works

The most difficult and demanding assignment in the Navy is that of a Commanding Officer, the Captain of the ship. To command such a ship is to command a world within her. The Commanding Officer not only knows the ultimate responsibility bestowed upon him but engulfs himself within the responsibility and ultimately becomes the ship (Captain Joseph Conrad).

Our case study focuses on the ethical dilemma presented to the Commanding Officer and what actions he may take in deciding the best outcome for his ship, the crew and others affected by his decision.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

When faced with ethical dilemmas, one must decide which direction or method to use to process the information and make the “right decision”. Does asking questions get the results needed to make the decision? A few methods believe so. Blanchard & Peale Method focuses on specific questions such as…Is my decision legal? Will my decision be fair and balanced? Will my decision leave my conscience clear? Laura Nash Method also asks questions but is a bit more in-depth of the scenario. Am I confident the decision is valid? Whom do I owe loyalty to? What is the intention behind my decision? If philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, Ayn Rand, and Immanuel Kant were faced with the same ethical dilemma as the Commanding Officer, how might they respond to the dilemma?

In this analysis, Command at Sea, we focus on which method suits the Commanding Officer the most. We look at the different perspectives of many philosophers and provide ethical decision possibilities within the scenario. Case Study Summary

Being a Commander at sea is an enormous responsibility as your decisions impact the lives of all on board. The Captain of a ship or Commander at sea makes all final decisions in unpredictable circumstances to maintain the safety of the crew. This is a huge responsibility to put on any one person so it is not a position that is taken lightly.

The day is calm and quiet when a young seaman drops weights on his foot and breaking bones but bad weather is coming. The doctor on the ship takes a look at the young man and decides that he will need more medical care than what he can provide and recommends that he is taken by a flight to the Aircraft Carrier. The night is coming and there is not a lot of time for the Captain to make a decision on how to handle the situation. The young man is in an incredible amount of pain and can only be sedated for comfort.

The Captain of the ship has to decide how and what he will do to help the young seamen. There are no more flights scheduled for the day and planning a mission when the night is coming can be dangerous and only the helicopter flight crew is certified to fly at night. The seaman also has not been trained on how to be hoisted onto a helicopter and since the ship is older there is no place for the helicopter to land. The sun is setting and the Captain needs to act fast in whatever decision he makes.


Leaders are faced with multiple choices which they need to make daily. As organizations grow, decisions become supplementary frequent and complicated. The Commander Officer (CO) will make the decision shall influence the future health and welfare of the employee. It means, the decision made must consider all the necessary factors and come up with great choice. A leader can use four basic decision-making styles. For example,

  • Command- Command is where leaders make choices without consulting people around them. This is a good method especially when an immediate solution is needed, and it is a good method where there is a crisis.
  • Collaborative- This is where employees gather their feedback and insights and a major decision is made. The leader gets to have the final say but their decision is based on the huge amount of information collected.
  • Consensus- This decision-making is done more like a democratic vote. The leaders gather around their employee and they all vote to come up with an answer. However, this will take more time and may lead to deteriorating health of the seaman.
  • Convenience- This decision-making is done if trusted employees surround the CO and he or she delegates the duties to either one of them. This ensures that the employees are empowered, and that the CO will not carry the whole burden.

Based on the decision-making styles above, it is therefore important that the seaman be flowed to the hospital to reduce the pain. The helicopter crew needed to be made aware of the situation at hand and how urgent it was and prepare for a flight. This would ensure that the welfare of the employee was investigated since the seaman was in so much pain and maintaining the reputation of the organization.

However, the seaman after being sedated could be given pain killers and receive the necessary medical attention of the medical staff who were on board. This would ensure that the pain reduces, and the seaman is able to wait until a flight is arranged to transport him to better health facilities. However, this is a risky procedure since the life of the seaman was at risk and the leg could have other complications, which have not yet been diagnosed. Ethical Decision Possibilities

As Commanding Officer, the responsibility is to the post and to the crew. With this in mind, the first option is to sedate the seaman and airlift him immediately using the available helicopter. By being unconscious the patient is not as likely to go into panic if conditions are not ideal at the time of lift or his lack of training. The Captain could request an emergency airlift even in bad weather conditions although it is unlikely based on the scenario it would be cleared with command. In addition to risking a $28 million dollar aircraft, its flight crew, and our own injured man, they will ask why the Commanding Officer didn’t act faster and use the helicopter that is already available.

Depending on advice from the Corpsman, the crew could wait until the better weather to air lift the injured man. The question would be; how much time is required to ensure optimal recovery of a broken foot. Even with his more limited facilities and knowledge, confidence is high the Doc can keep the foot from getting infected at least until the patient can be transferred.

Again, consulting with the Corpsman, is the issue facility based or knowledge based? If the primary reason for transferring the patient is to get him more knowledgeable attention, a request to command to deliver the correct personnel tonight before the weather turns is a possibility. Carriers have anywhere between six and eight Sea Hawk helicopters available. They could load up who is required with additional supplies and get them to the ship tonight.

Lastly, the ships current Doctor can be ordered to do his best and a change in course to rendezvous with the Carrier for a ship to ship transfer is an option. It may be faster than waiting for the weather to turn if the seaman cannot be airlifted tonight.

John Stuart Mill- Utilitarianism

John Stuart Mill did not create or develop his own theory but instead supported his father’s vision on Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism states that the right and wrong of actions I based on the good or bad of the consequences. (Ruggiero, 2015) In a sense, he believed one’s happiness from the consequence of a decision is the groundwork for how we make decisions. Utilitarianism is not just about a single person’s happiness but everyone’s equally and this must be considered when making an ethical decision.

In the case study, the Captain must make a decision and consider all possibilities and using Utilitarianism must also consider everyone’s happiness. The right thing to do for the young seamen is to try and get him to the Aircraft Carrier where he can get the care he needs. In order for this to happen others must risk their lives with bad weather and a challenging trip. I am assuming that working on a ship in the Navy, there is team spirit and a sort of comradery that would influence others to want to help this man.

The Captain would create the most happiness by helping get the man to the Aircraft Carrier for both himself and the entire ship, so he would need to contact Carrier Air Group Commander right away and ask them to come and lift this man and get him to safety. If he does this the next logical course of action would be to speak with the seaman and walk him through the hoisting process so that he can get off the ship. If sedating him and allowing others to help get him strapped to be hoisted is an option it will likely be the least painful for the seaman but that is unknown. The seaman is also nervous to fly so he would likely need some words of encouragement from his captain.

This decision will put the flight crew at a slight risk due to the sun going down already and the impending weather but I am assuming they are well trained and will want to help the seaman since they won’t be able to come back for a few days with the storm. There is a no possible medical treatment for the man on the ship and he would have to sit in pain if a solution is not found and executed. This course of action will make the most people happy and be doing the most good for all involved. I am sure the doctor on the ship doesn’t want a patient who is in pain and he cannot treat for any length of time. I am also sure there are also a certain amount of risks for the young man if he doesn’t get care in a timely manner. Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism is a great guide to decision making and should have the best possible outcomes in most if not all situation if applied correctly.

Ayn Rand: Objectivism

Ayn Rand believed that by focusing inward to improve the happiness in one’s self was of the utmost importance. It is not a man’s responsibility to ensure the happiness in others by being selfless. Objectivism, “in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” (Rand, 1957)

The Commanding Officer of this ship is responsible for his crew and his duties but this should not prevent him from achieving his own personal goals that will lead to his happiness. The C.O. is the figurehead of the boat. He is the one others rely upon and look to for guidance not only because he is in charge and wears the mantle of Captain but because he is happy to be there for them in this capacity. It is with honor and pleasure to be held in such high regard and the Captain’s decisions are not second-guessed because of this attitude.

The C.O. should have no fear of disapproval from superiors or crew with the choices they make for their crewmembers. The trust they have in the skills of the Navy is returned in the trust they are afforded. If a Captain requests additional support from an Aircraft Carrier, they expect to receive it without complaint or hesitation.

Objectivism is broken down into Objective Reality or facts, reason, self-interest as described above, and finally Capitalism or the goals of mutual benefit. It is a fact the crew has an injured man that needs greater medical attention than what is available readily. It is a fact that there are no perfect options available. Reason advises that waiting too long for assistance could be detrimental to recovery. Reason also suggests that acting fast is best due to the impending weather conditions tomorrow.

Finally, we have Capitalism. Mutual benefit. Serving the crew members by giving them the aid they need when they need it is repaid by their service and dedication to the ship, their post, and their government.

Based on Rand’s philosophies, the best course of action would likely have to be air lifting the injured Seaman immediately to get him the help he needs. This option touches upon all the aspects of Objectivism.

Immanuel Kant: Deontology

Immanuel Kant believed only good actions are considered good if they are joined with goodwill. Goodwill directs people to do what they ought to do instead of what they want to do or what benefits them. The basis of moral action is duty, is Kant’s foundation of morality summed up. Kant believed certainty can only be found in the form of reason (Ruggiero, 2015).

If Immanuel Kant was in the Commanding Officers position his decision would be clear. Based off the recommendation of the Senior Enlisted Hospital Corpsman “Doc”, knowing the state of the injured seaman and all facts regarding the situation, the C.O. must call the Carrier Air Group and arrange for medical evacuation immediately.

In a perfect world, the C.O., could finish his coffee and shift without interruption and arrange for a flight crew to pick up the injured seaman after the bad weather has cleared. As the case study states, it is not a perfect world with ideal scenarios. The C.O.’s decision to arrange medical evacuation shows his goodwill and his duty to the injured seaman.


Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most influential people in the early twentieth century and is very much responsible for the “Quit India Movement” that resulted in India’s independence from the rule of Great Britain. To this day he is often regarded as one of the people that changed the world for the better. But how could we apply his philosophical ideals to this instance?

Besides playing an imperative role in the de-colonization of India, and speaking of bringing people together for world peace, Gandhi also spoke of selflessly helping others to the very best of your ability. He once said:

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

How can this relate to the seaman in the case provided? It states we must do the right thing, even if it is out of our power. What this would mean for the seaman is that the right thing for him to do would be to go up to the Commanding Officer (CO) or have a colleague report it to him if he was unable so the proper channels can be followed.

As someone enlisted in the armed forces, he would not want to do anything outside of his power. If he were to make a major decision without the word of the CO, that could result in not only disciplinary action, but could also pose a dangerous situation that could put lives at risk even beyond his own. Gandhi also spoke of obedience and doing what is both morally as well as legally right. He said, “The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law, to the strength of the spirit.”

The best-case scenario for the situation would be to organize a flight with the Air Group Commander as soon as possible. This way they could get him off the ship while the weather was still reasonable and safe to leave. They could also sedate the sailor as it stated he was afraid of flying. This would make the situation more comfortable and tolerable for him.

Locke theory, the opinions become productivity in his politely writing and economic. As he treasured capital and financial progress as important human goals. In addition, Locke takes to include life is that man from cultures and governments, who are protecting their goods, which are freedom and park. On another side of nature, with supply shortage and men “no great observers of equity and justice”. Also, liberty or one’s estate converts limited indeed when you have the ability to enjoy life. (Ruggiero, 2015) By agreeing to give up his right to be a judge in his own case, each man gains the benefits of increased order and security. Many consider Locke’s views to be like modern democratic thoughts. Though, like most political philosophers, it is difficult to section him into a single ideology.

According to theory from Locke, the composite knowledge of an element is a collection of simple ideas which is believed capable of present autonomously. In this case, Locke would want the caption to take a decision on saving the seamen life by sending him to the hospital via helicopter. As we know, Locke believes that the” labor theory of value”. Means, rules are made for us and our law. But if you work hard on something you should get that. Like, a man who got injured, he is working on the ship. So, he got that right to ask for help, because he puts his labor on that ship.

Furthermore, the caption should help the injured man first. Beside the fact, that he never trained for the emergency evacuation by helicopter on air. But teamwork can show power. Also, the injured man got his bone broke. So, if the caption can give him medication for temporary relief pain. That gives him a bit of pain-free evacuation.

If the caption waits for next day morning and goes according to the law. Like, after dark nobody can fly except to helicopter crew. It means that the work has been done by injured man on that ship, does not give him protection when he needed the most. According to Locke theory, people should receive something back when they do hard work and put labor in there. In this case, Locke’s principle is quite simple. For example, people have the right to ask for help when they needed. Also, the government should help people when they give their hard work towards society. To add, in this case, an injured man works for the navy and save unites states border by protecting people. Also, people cannot use more than their right, this law. The natural rights of people backed by labor’s money. it becomes the basis for development outside the existing level of goods.


So, with all the philosopher’s ideologies considered, what can be said? All the philosophers have varying concepts of good and bad, right and wrong. In Mill’s perspective, the best scenario would be one that is the most utilitarian, meaning the consequences would be beneficial for all, albeit in our situation, the flight crew may have some slight risk, yet the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Rand’s philosophy of objectivism would lead us to make the decision of airlifting the soldier away to safety. In Objectivism, our self-interest may take over and we may think to do our first inclination would be the best case, however, we must think in the capitalist perspective as well so all parties involved may benefit.

Looking with Kant’s idea of deontology, we must do what is good only if it is meant with goodwill. In the situation provided, almost any choice could be perceived as “goodwill” as each will benefit the injured soldier. This can be paralleled to Gandhi’s idea of always doing good regardless of your power. Finally looking at things in Locke’s perspective, the captain should always do what is right for the ship as a whole. That would mean helping the injured soldier as quickly, and safely as possible. With this situation, we looked at several different philosophers with very different concepts, yet they all lead to almost the same conclusion. As humans, regardless of what ideas we side with or believe in, we must always do what is right for everyone.

Did you like this example?

The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay

Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

The Commanding Officer. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved from