Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 13 April, 2009.
Bravo Zulu U.S. Navy!
Last week I had my course corrected by a Navy Chief Petty Officer. It was not the first time such a thing happened in my semi-gloss military career, but this instance was unusual for a number of reasons. The Chief didn't call me a dumb-ass knuckle-dragger and he didn't threaten to heave me over the side to keep my presence in the Marine Corps from screwing up his Navy. And the Chief - there was absolutely nothing petty about this guy - contacted me through the Warriors website to let me know he was a big supporter of our avowed agenda of shining some positive light on the military in the popular media.
What the Chief wanted me to know and what he urged me not to forget in my regular dealings with films, TV, radio and all the other faucets for public consumption was that there is a whole hell of a lot more going on in our military community around the world than what we see or hear about the folks serving in The Sandbox or The Stan. It's been my experience that Chief Petty Officers are rarely wrong about anything and my correspondent serving with Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (JTF-HOA) certainly had a valid point.
For the past several years, the brilliant - often brutal - light of media attention has been focused on events in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's understandable. It's also unfair and a benchmark that tells us the mantra of those hard-headed editors, news directors and screenwriters regarding military stories attends: If it bleeds it leads. If it's a matter of routine service and sacrifice, it disappears into a wormhole. The Chief's point was that while the frenetic, hard-living soldiers and Marines continue rolling into and out of the two major war zones and creating a whole new generation of American combat veterans, their counterparts - mainly sailors and airmen - serving elsewhere around the world are just as dedicated and just as heroic but grossly under-appreciated.
Duly chagrined by the Chief's comments, I was trying to figure out how I might help when a gaggle of piss-ant pirates in The Big Eye Oh screwed the pooch and solved the problem. With the pirate attack on the U.S. flagged merchant vessel Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia and the kidnapping of her gallant skipper, the United States Navy roared from backwater swabbies to the heroes of the high seas in a four-day military operation that is destined to be a TV movie just as soon as some producer can secure the rights to the story of Captain Richard Phillips' ordeal. And that's as it should be.
Details of exactly what happened with the SEALS and sailors of CTF-151 are still dribbling out of 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain, but one thing is crystal clear: Facing the fortitude and courage of American merchant seamen plus the power and expertise of the U.S. Navy, the Somali pirates never had a chance in hell of adding the Maersk Alabama to their roster of captured merchant vessels. Nor did they have even a remote shot at collecting the $2 million in ransom they were demanding for Captain Phillips' safe return to friendly hands.
For the record, the four scrawny, weapon-wielding thugs who boarded the container ship some 300 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia never had control of the vessel. The civilian sailors fended them off with fire hoses and steering maneuvers for hours before they even got aboard Maersk Alabama. And when they finally managed to haul themselves and their weapons up onto the decks, they met resolute resistance that resulted in the pirate chieftain being captured and a twelve hour stand-off. The message sent to the pirates was both clear and shocking given the success they'd enjoyed in similar high seas hijackings: You people picked a fight with the American bull and now you're about to get the horn.
To prevent harm to his crew holding out weaponless against the armed pirates, Captain Phillips offered himself as a hostage and got the pirates to leave his ship in a small lifeboat. That's when the U.S. Navy steamed into the tactical picture and a tense chess game on the Indian Ocean began in earnest. The shocked pirates were now pawns and the king calling the shots was Commander Frank Castellano, commanding the USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer crewed by highly-competent and motivated sailors. Before long he was reinforced with SEAL snipers and a flotilla of warships including the USS Gettysburg, the USS Halyburton and the USS Boxer, flagship of CTF-151. If it wasn't clear to the pirates bobbing around in the lifeboat that they were engaged in a losing effort when they got their butts kicked off the Maersk Alabama, facing those warships steaming in intimidating circles clarified the situation.
As the on-scene commander, Castellano enjoyed the full trust and confidence of his superiors from the White House to the 5th Fleet. There was no need to call the President or check with his superiors. Standing orders gave him both the responsibility and the authority to act as he saw fit and get Captain Philips safely rescued. There was a period of milling around while FBI hostage negotiators tried to coach their way around the concept that America's policy is that we don't negotiate with terrorists, but the end was in sight. Commander Castellano knew it. His sailors and SEALS who were war-gaming the situation from every conceivable angle knew it. And by Easter Sunday, the pirates knew the game had just about played out to their detriment.
With the lifeboat in tow at the end of about thirty meters of hawser off the fantail of the Bainbridge and the hog-tied Captain Phillips warned to take cover at the first shot, snipers aboard the Bainbridge got a solid sighting of all three pirates and caressed their triggers. Game over in seconds with a final score of pirates minus three and the U.S. Navy plus one very happy merchant captain. The remaining pirate in the quartet of dumb-asses involved in the initial attack was already aboard Bainbridge when the kill shots on his buddies were taken. He'd seen the light earlier in the day and requested to be taken aboard the destroyer for treatment of the boo-boo he got in the fight with the Maersk Alabama's crew.
That's lucky for him and his luck just might hold as the haggling over his legal status and trial disposition begins and the lawyers leap into the fray. He could face life in prison if convicted which would mean that his luck was still running because three hots and a prison cot would be a whole lot better than what he had back in Somalia. He'll be lawyered up to his ears in a couple of days but I believe there's only one question here. When we conduct the public hanging, do we drop him over the side and snap his neck or pull him up to a yardarm and let him slowly strangle?
But that's another movie. Right now our Navy - and by extension our merchant mariners - are deservedly basking in the glow of positive publicity. I guess I won't have to bang the drum for those guys here in Hollywood but I sure hope I get hired to work on the movie. Well done, Navy. Bravo Zulu, and you folks make me even more proud to wear an anchor on my emblems.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 5:07 PM in Category:General News
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