Recon Marines free cargo vessel from Somalis pirates

13 Sep 2010 | Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Osborne

Force Reconnaissance Marines demonstrated their ship-boarding skills when they rescued a cargo vessel crew from a group of pirates off the coast of Somalia Sept. 9.

The USS Dubuque was “just passing through” while traveling to an exercise in Jordan when a distress call from the German-owned Magellan Star came in, said Lt. Col. J.R Clearfield, the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Landing Team, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Nine Somalis boarded the Magellan Star while it was traveling through the Gulf of Aden Sept. 8.

They were pointing their weapons at the Marines, which made the ship difficult to board, said Staff Sgt. Thomas Hartrick, team leader of the 1st Battalion Landing Team.

"They kept telling us, 'Just give us money and we'll go away,'" Hartrick added.

Once they boarded the ship, the pirates suddenly became compliant and backed down without firing a single shot, said Clearfield, an Albany, N.Y., native.

“Imagine walking around the corner and having 50 weapons pointed at your face,” said Navy Capt. Christopher Bolt, commanding officer of the USS Dubuque. “Even though you might have postured that you were pretty brave a few hours earlier, when it comes down to looking down, not just one barrel but a whole bunch at one time, people start thinking about their lives.”

The Fairfax, Va., native also said “Marines are like a precision instrument combined with the power of a hammer, so they are like precision hammers.”

Detaining the pirates wasn’t the only difficult part of the mission. Since the crew had locked themselves in the engine room, they were unaware that the Marines had regained control of the ship, Clearfield said.

For an hour the Marines cut through walls with their breaching equipment until the crew had backed into the last compartment and couldn’t go any further, said Hartrick, a Stevensville, Mont., native. On the last wall the Marines cut a paper-sized hole and inserted an American flag patch.

When they realized it was Marines, the crew became very jovial and were extremely happy to see us, Clearfield said.

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