Recon Marines rescue seamen, save vessel
Just after dawn on September 9, 24 Marines in two boats approached the Merchant Vessel (M/V) Magellan Star. She had been dead in the water since being boarded by an unknown number of pirates the day before. The ship’s captain had been in contact with the Marines by cell phone until early that morning when the phone died on him.
The events of this raid were described to reporters by LtCol. Joseph R. Clearfield, unit commander. The pirated ship had been traveling in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), patrolled by CTF-151.
First on scene had been the flagship of CTF-151, TCG Gökçeada, the anti-piracy taskforce supported by the United States. The Turkish frigate arrived about an hour after the distress call went out from the Magellan Star. The U.S. cruiser Princeton and amphibious landing ship Dubuque arrived by mid-afternoon on the 8th.
The ship’s captain told the military that he and his crew were safe, in a “citadel”. They were barricaded in an auxiliary control space and had food and water.
The pirates were contacted by both radio and loudspeaker. They brandished weapons and made threats. At one point they told the surrounding ships “Go away or we will burn you!”
Overnight, the commander of the Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, received the “go” order to attempt an assault. It was a mission that the Recon Marines had practiced over a dozen times in the last few months.
With helicopter circling overhead, and snipers in overwatch, the first wave of Marines took off for the captured vessel. There were no pirate boats tied to the ship, and one skiff had been found adrift by the Turks earlier.
The first move was to the bridge. One pirate surrendered immediately upon seeing the Marines and called two other out to surrender.
The Marines then smashed in the bridge windows and the four pirates that remained surrendered.
As the Marines cleared the ship, they surprised another pirate and tackled him to the ground. The ninth and final pirate barricaded himself in a room. Breeching tools and a “flashbang” grenade were used to effect his capture.
The stairways and passageways of the superstructure were fouled with equipment and furniture by the pirates in an effort to delay the Marines. Below decks, the Marines found a more complex and thorough set of blockages, created by the ship’s crew. The pirates were all in custody in about an hour but it would take Marines nearly another two hours to reach the crew.
In the end, a hole was cut in a bulkhead and the ship’s captain was shown an American flag. At that point the crew left their safe haven. Marines discovered that the crew had prepared a series of three fallback positions, in the event the pirates had reached them.
Other than minor cuts and scrapes, neither the crew nor the pirates sustained any injuries. No Marines or Navy personnel were injured. No shots were fired and only a “flashbang” grenade was expended.
Naval personnel from the USS Dubuque assisted the ship’s crew with repairs. From the time the assault began until the Magellan Star was underway to her destination, only seven hours had passed.
Nearly 80 Marines participated in successive waves of the assault. Once the pirates were captured, an agent of the NCIS and a criminal investigator worked with other American personnel to process the crime scene. The Marines involved have all given statements.
Five operable AK-47′s, automatic weapons, and nine magazines were seized. Bladed weapons and breeching equipment were also taken from the pirates. Several spent cartridges were discovers that indicated that the pirates had fired some shots while on board.
When asked to comment about the restraint shown by his Marines, raid commander Captain Alexander Martin pointed to their high level of training, discipline and their previous experience with multiple deployments in Iraq or Afghanistan. He told reporters “This is not their first rodeo”.
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This entry was posted on Friday, September 10th, 2010 at 1:03 pm and is filed under Crime and Punishment, Military, Marines, Military, Original writing, Original writing, Reporting, War on Terror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.