Call her commander: Edmonds native captains naval combat ship

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    She once was a little girl dressed up as Lady Liberty marching down Main Street in the annual Edmonds Fourth of July parade.

    Now, at 40, Emily Klauser Bassett continues that patriotic theme as the first captain and commanding officer of the USS Manchester, stationed in Mobile, Alabama.

    It’s a unique assignment. Recently delivered to the Navy for testing and certification, the Manchester is a new littoral combat ship, meaning it has a shallow draft so it can operate near the shoreline. It’s known for a sleek, needle-like trimaran hull, and speed, able to haul at 40 knots.

    To captain a crew is still rare for women in the Navy, representing about 15 percent of those commanding ships and 19 percent of the entire naval force. It’s a topic she’s thought about deeply.

    “It’s been an arc,” she reflects. “My first eight or nine years I was just busy getting the job done. There was so much to do that I didn’t really think about the issue.”

    In addition, women in leadership roles were familiar to her. Her first commanding officer was a woman, and Bassett — who attended Lynnwood Elementary and College Place Middle School — grew up in a home with an accomplished, working mother, Henriette Klauser, Ph.D., of Edmonds.

    Plus, Bassett has a natural drive to succeed, no matter the obstacles. It may be somewhat of an understatement when she says, “I’m super deliberate.”

    Her education illustrates not only perseverance but also a lively intellect. She’s got a bachelor’s degree in classical civilizations and two master’s degrees: One in Hispanic Studies, earned in Spain no less, and another in engineering management.

    Having an understanding of ancient cultures absolutely informs her command philosophy. “I learned basic lessons of human nature from the Greeks, and I learned how to learn, how to be curious.”

    It all seemed to come together when she became involved in the Lean-In movement, based on the book by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, which encourages women to embrace leadership.

    “I thought, oh my gosh, I should think more about this,” Bassett said. “It gave me a toolkit to explore power and gender.”

    Emily Klauser Bassett with son Edward, daughter Isabel and husband Will Bassett.

    As a mother of two, there’s also the work/life balance to juggle.

    “I always say, ‘Everyone needs a Will,’” she laughs, explaining her husband’s name is Will. “He’s amazing. And my kids are with the program.”

    She checks in constantly. “Is it still working? I have a great support structure. My kids are healthy and happy. They’re proud of me,” she said.

    Somehow, Bassett carves out downtime. “I plan for it. I read books, write in a journal, do yoga every day and workout daily. I’m very conscious of my energy level. It’s not about efficiency. I don’t care about that. But energy — if I have to do something I know is draining, I do it when my energy is high.”

    And, as a Catholic (she grew up attending Edmonds’ Holy Rosary Church), she follows Franciscan friar Richard Rohr’s lessons in contemplative meditation.

    Above all else, Bassett remains devoted to her crew and country. “I know I’m serving something greater than myself.”

    Time with her crew is drawing to a close: This May, the Manchester will be officially commissioned in New Hampshire, at which time there will be a change of command and Bassett moves on to her next assignment as a nuclear reactor officer aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier.

    “But no matter where I travel, Edmonds is home,” she said. “I think back to my days there, those 4th of July parades, and I see what we all have in common.”

    — By Connie McDougall

    — Photos courtesy Emily Klauser Bassett

     

     

    8 Replies to “Call her commander: Edmonds native captains naval combat ship”

    1. A very interesting story and a great example of what can be accomplished. I found Emily pictured in the 1992 Holy Rosary Church Directory.

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    2. I saw your vessel under construction in Mobile last summer while I was visiting my father-in-law’s WWII battleship, the USS Alabama. I was in complete awe of your new command and even took the Duck ride to get a better view of it. The local story doesn’t do justice to the capabilities of the vessel and her crew to complete some very extreme missions (it didn’t take much imagination to see where it might be deployed). If you do return to Edmonds and have any spare time, I would like to invite you to address our local VFW Post. We have a number of sailors, blue and brown water, who would love to hear you as well as some old Army guys like myself who would as well.

      Jim Traner – Program Chair and Past Commander of VFW Post 8870

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    3. More appropriately, call her “Captain.” The commanding officer of a navy ship is called “Captain” no matter her/his rank. It signifies to all, the authority, responsibility and accountability, of the officer. Commander Bassett has earned the title.

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    4. I was in the coast guard and worked on bouy tenders. My first boat always addressed the captain as skipper. It stuck with me. Once I did a temporary deployment on a 210. Found out this wasn’t the norm.

      I worked on the bridge and the first day underway, the captain (commander) asked me something. I responded; eye eye skipper. Everyone chuckled with the exception of the X.O.

      He was just starting to give me a verbal reprimand when the commander/captain stepped in. He asked me why I used that term. Told him it was just a habbit I picked up on my first boat. He said he used the same term on his first boat and informed the X.O. He liked it. Within a week everyone on the bridge was calling him Skipper.

      When I returned to my ship I was called to the wardroom. That X.O. had written a reprimand in my file stating “I was too informal with command”. My Skipper got a chuckle out of it.

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