Archive for February, 2012
Colonel William H. Dabney, Unites States Marine Corps (Ret.) passed away today. He was the son-in-law of legendary Marine Lewis “Chesty” Puller, and was a mustang officer who commanded a two-company detachment of 3rd Bn 26th Marines on Hill 881S near Khe Sanh for seventy-seven days in early 1968. Colonel Dabney’s Marines held onto that key terrain with clenched fingers against anything and everything the NVA could throw at them. Only two ways off the hill, they said. “Blown off, or flown off.” A 2005 Leatherneck Magazine article tells the story.
Colonel Dabney waited 37 years to receive a Navy Cross for his actions. It was awarded in 2005, at Virginia Military Institute, his alma mater. Here is his citation:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to:
William H. Dabney (0-80399), Colonel [then Captain], U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Commanding Officer of two heavily reinforced rifle companies of the Third Battalion, Twenty-Sixth Marines, THIRD Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam from 21 January to 14 April 1968. During the entire period, Colonel Dabney’s force stubbornly defended Hill 881S, a regional outpost vital to the defense of the Khe Sanh Combat Base.
Following his bold spoiling attack on 20 January 1968, shattering a much larger North Vietnamese Army (NVA) force deploying to attack Hill 881S, Colonel Dabney’s force was surrounded and cut off from all outside ground supply for the entire 77 day Siege of Khe Sanh. Enemy snipers, machine guns, artillery, and 120-millimeter mortars responded to any daylight movement on his position. In spite of deep entrenchments, his total casualties during the siege were close to 100 percent. Helicopters were his only source of re-supply, and each such mission brought down a cauldron of fire on his landing zones. On numerous occasions Colonel Dabney raced into the landing zone under heavy hostile fire to direct debarkation of personnel and to carry wounded Marines to evacuation helicopters.
The extreme difficulty of re-supply resulted in conditions of hardship and deprivation seldom experienced by American forces. Nevertheless, Colonel Dabney’s indomitable spirit was truly an inspiration to his troops. He organized his defenses with masterful skill and his preplanned fires shattered every enemy probe on his positions. He also devised an early warning system whereby NVA artillery and rocket firings from the west were immediately reported by lookouts to the Khe Sanh Combat Base, giving exposed personnel a few life saving seconds to take cover, saving countless lives, and facilitating the targeting of enemy firing positions.
Colonel Dabney repeatedly set an incredible example of calm courage under fire, gallantly exposing himself at the center of every action without concern for his own safety. Colonel Dabney contributed decisively to ultimate victory in the Battle of Khe Sanh, and ranks among the most heroic stands of any American force in history. By his valiant combat leadership, exceptional bravery, and selfless devotion to duty, Colonel Dabney reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Great web site about the “Warriors of Hill 881S”, of which Colonel Dabney was the mightiest. “India Six Actual”. Colonel Dabney was 77.
“Another Marine reporting, Sir, I’ve served my time in hell.”
h/t Masta G
It’s gonna get you!
It is difficult to think of a death too agonizing for someone whose sole objective is the deliberate killing and injuring of innocents. So maybe living the remainder of your short life with the same horrible and painful wounds you wished to inflict on others is closer to poetic justice. A shame he wasn’t sharing a phone booth with Ahmedinejad and Khameini at the time. But fortuitous neither he nor his accomplice made it onto an airplane full of people.
Yesterday over at my homeblog, we went over last week’s issue with the USMC’s problem understanding the proper context of what is clearly Nazi iconography. From flags to tattoos (see the NSFW video linked to in comments at the last link if you really need to see it) – there is an issue there.
Our nation has its own rich martial tradition, so why would warriors feel the need to search outside their own heritage – or for that matter outside an honorable heritage elsewhere – for their unit/personal iconography?
At the reactionary, retail level the answer is leadership – that that is only a symptom of a larger problem. What is wrong with our own heritage?
Is the problem ignorance of our own martial history? Perhaps … but that doesn’t explain why individuals and units have no problem finding “strong martial imagery” in a foreign history. What are we doing wrong inside our own historical lifelines that our own iconography is insufficient – could it be that we don’t give it the support it deserves?
I would offer that part of the problem is that we have allowed others to water down our own “red in tooth and claw” history – purging or softening what is the very real nature of this business – we kill people and break things simply because we are ordered to (insert polite conversation version here). There is little margin for error – and a lack of attention to detail or knowledge will quickly lead to the death of yourself and possibly thousands of your Shipmates – and mission failure. Not a Hollywood ending – but one of charred flesh, scattered chunks, and in some warfare specialties – a grey-pink mist.
Yes, this line of work is at its core a rough business.
The phrase “Initial Success or Total Failure” has long served as the unofficial motto of explosive ordnance disposal technicians in the U.S. military.
Until recently, the slogan hung on a wall at the Naval EOD school at Eglin. It was removed after senior EOD leaders decided the words were insensitive.
“It holds some potential insensitivity and implies that our fallen and wounded EOD warriors have somehow failed,” said Joy Samsel, deputy public affairs officer at Naval Education and Training Command in Pensacola. “We don’t want to do that to families.”
Samsel said the EOD school has never had an official motto and has no plans to adopt one.
Rear Adm. Michael Tillotson, commander of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, took issue with the slogan and said that “to imply that failure is an option is unacceptable.”
“Throughout history, many EOD techs from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, other U.S. government and civilian agencies, as well as foreign partners, have lost their lives or been wounded in the line of duty,” he said. “To imply that they failed is insensitive and disrespectful.”
Let me join the many in saying; RADM Tillotson, you’re wrong; in this business everyone does not get a trophy.
“The motto is not about the individual, it is about the mission, and when you are dealing with an explosive device you generally get one shot to render it safe,” Will Pratt, a former Army EOD technician, wrote in an email to the Daily News.
“When you start making changes to an explosive device, you are either going to shut it off or set it off, hence initial success or total failure. This does not mean that the technician is a failure by any stretch of the imagination. ”
Pratt said the military has lots of unofficial mottos and that “Initial Success or Total Failure” is included on the Navy’s EOD memorial in Washington, D.C.
He added that he hopes the Navy won’t allow Tillotson to “destroy a tradition that was there long before him and will be there long after he is gone.”
First Sgt. Joseph Smith of Fort Hood, Texas, said the removal of the motto “is beyond most EOD technicians’ comprehension.” He said he has never heard any complaints about the motto from EOD techs or their families.
Actually – direct clear communication of the binary nature of the EOD business, as the motto is, is actually a signal of great sensitivity to your Sailors’ families – making sure from the beginning Sailors understand the unforgiving nature of their work and so will have a greater likelihood of coming home. It shows great respect for their maturity and professionalism by speaking to them without guile.
How is this being carried out? Well, in an almost Orwellian/Soviet manner. From an email inside the EOD lifelines;
Subject: FW: Visual inspection of all NAVSCOLEOD buildings
Please read the e-mail below. I don’t know the history or driving factors behind this so please don’t ask AND refrain from sending me an e-mail telling me how dumb you think this is. Bottom line is it needs to happen and I need you to make it happen.
DO NOT DELEGATE THIS BELOW THE NCOIC LEVEL.
I need either the Divo or NCOIC to personally inspect all spaces under your cognizance. This includes training areas (e.g. IED huts, BC labs, PT areas, ice house, class plaques, ceiling tiles, etc) and any place that this phrase may possibly reside. If, for example, you find a wall with the phrase, don’t just take a can of spray paint to it. Annotate it and add it to the list of places you found the phrase and we’ll work with facilities to get it painted over to make it look nice.
If/when I find out more about the driving factors I’ll get back to you. If you have legitimate complaints and/or your instructors morale is negatively affected save your concerns until next [redacted] Divo meeting or come and talk with me personally. I need confirmation this has been completed by 1100 Friday 10 Feb.
Of note, this does not apply to personal memorabilia that individuals have on display at their desks or in their PERSONAL work areas.
Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal
So, down the memory hole. Admirals have a lot of power – so it is done.
There are even talking points:
QUOTE: Rear Admiral Michael Tillotson, Commander Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (senior Navy EOD officer)
“As leaders in the EOD community we have a responsibility to support, train and prepare EOD Technicians for an extremely dangerous profession. To imply that failure is an option is unacceptable.”
“Throughout history many EOD techs from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, other U.S. government and civilian agencies, as well as foreign partners have lost their lives or been wounded in the line of duty. To imply that they failed is insensitive and disrespectful. We owe our fallen warriors and their families honor and dignity for their heroic service.”
Initial talking points:
1) “Initial success or total failure” has never been an official motto of Navy EOD.
2) The motto itself holds potential insensitivities and an unintended message insinuating that our fallen and wounded EOD Warriors have somehow failed.
3) It is the Navy EOD’s position to not display this motto within Navy commands.
Give warfighters appropriate and sufficient iconography – or they will find their own.
Last Man Standing, The 1st Marine Regiment on Peleliu
by Dick Camp
Zenith Press, c. 2008
Retired Marine Colonel Dick Camp (Lima-6) whose writing has taken us from the battlefields of the Great War to the August 2004 fight for Najaf, produces with “Last Man Standing” an unvarnished account of one of the most tragic stories of Marine heroism, sacrifice, and bloodshed in the securing of a Pacific island objective in the Second World War.
The author’s duties as Aide de Camp to Marine Corps legend General Raymond Davis allowed Camp to compile a compelling and fascinating inside account of the savage and unrelenting combat on Peleliu. In addition to General Davis’ perspective (Davis was 1st Battalion commander in the 1st Marines under Colonel Lewis Puller), the author interviews Russ Honsowetz, also commander of a battalion (2nd) in 1st Marines, and makes extensive use of Eugene Sledge’s account of the fighting (With the Old Breed) to provide a day-by-day narrative of the unfolding of the near-destruction of Pullers’ First Marines in the coral crags of the Umurbrogol.
Operation STALEMATE, the seizure of Peleliu and Angaur in the Palau Islands of the Caroline Island chain, was intended to shield the flank of Douglas MacArthur’s drive to the Philippines. The airfield on Peleliu was of particular interest to US planners, and was believed to necessitate a major operation to seize it and the rest of the island. Despite the destruction of Japanese air power on Peleliu, and against the pleading of William Halsey to cancel STALEMATE, Admiral Nimitz ordered the landings on Peleliu and Angaur to proceed. Camp’s accounting of the fighting on Peleliu, illustrated with helpful maps and combat photographs, is nothing short of chilling. The airfield seizure was quickly accomplished, but in the rugged, forbidding coral croppings that ran the center of the island, a tragedy of bravery, sacrifice, and failed leadership played out.
The two Marine leaders whose performance, rightly, bear the most scrutiny are 1st Marine Division Commander BGen William Rupertus, and legendary Marine Colonel Lewis “Chesty” Puller. The reputation of General Rupertus is at best uneven, many of his peers and immediate juniors being somewhat unimpressed with the man, his tactical acumen, and his leadership. On top of his already identified shortcomings, Rupertus had badly injured an ankle in a rehearsal and was nearly immobile. His message to the Division that Peleliu would be a quick three-day affair highlighted Rupertus’ lack of understanding of the tasks at hand.
But it is the performance of “Chesty” Puller, commanding the 1st Marines, that is laid bare by the events on that hot and forbidding coral ridge. Camp’s book brings to the fore the human cost of Puller’s failure to understand the terrain and enemy his Marine rifle companies faced, nor the losses they incurred daily, for little or no gain. Puller was hobbled by a flare-up of the leg wound he had received two years earlier, commanding 1/7 on Guadalcanal, and despite his characteristic penchant for locating his command post within rifle range of the enemy, his lack of mobility prevented Puller from walking the ground with his Battalion and Company commanders. Had he been able to do so, he would have halted his stubborn admonition for wasteful and fruitless attacks against a disciplined and well-dug-in enemy in impossible terrain. In addition, as Camp makes clear, his unwillingness to heed the reports of his superb Battalion Commanders doomed his regiment to being bled white in the coral hills.
Camp also describes the foolishness of Rupertus and Puller all but refusing to accede to the presence of an Army Regiment to relieve Puller’s shattered 1st Marines after six bloody days, until Amphibious Corps Commander General Geiger came ashore and after meeting with both, ordered the relief.
How much Colonel Lewis Puller was affected by the debilitating pain in his leg, or by the death of his brother Sam on Guam some weeks before Peleliu is not known, but the author intimates both were draws on Puller, at a time and under conditions which required his absolute best.
Camp’s matter-of-fact treatment of an otherwise legendary figure in Marine Corps lore is a valuable reminder that perspective is an important component of historical analysis. While many enlisted Marines would revere “Chesty” even after Peleliu, many Marine Officers who understood the tactical situation and had a larger view of Puller’s performance are less forgiving. As an example, Camp includes the perspective of Captain Everett Pope, the lone surviving Company Commander who was awarded the Medal of Honor while leading Charlie Company in Davis’ First Battalion. Captain Pope is quoted in Camp’s book leveling harsh, if justified criticism of Puller’s understanding of the terrain and conditions, and complete disdain for his ordering futile and bloody attacks. “The adulation paid him these days sickens me”. In hindsight, while Rupertus should never have been allowed to command the Division with his physical infirmity, Puller should probably have been relieved of command of 1st Marines.
Thankfully, Peleliu was most decidedly not the end of the Puller legend. His leadership at the front of those same 1st Marines in November-December of 1950 in the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir is a study of inspirational leadership and determination. There, Puller would win a fifth Navy Cross, and earn Brigadier General ‘s stars. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1955 as a Lieutenant General.
Dick Camp’s book is an important work for understanding the history of the Marine Corps, one of its more tragic episodes, and a rather inglorious performance of one of its revered legends. This book should be on the shelf of every serious student of the Pacific War, and of the Marine Corps’s role in that war.
As noted in an earlier post on my home site, the weather in the upper Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden is beginning to shift from monsoon back to that more favorable to the operations of pirates in the small open attack boats. After several weeks of slowed pirate activity, the pirates have managed to snag a new victim and her crew of 21.
Arrayed against the pirates are warships from the EU, NATO, China, India, Japan, Singapore, Iran, Russia and armed guard teams embarked on many merchant ships and fishing boats.
Naturally, it’s a good time to talk pirates. So, on Sunday, February 12 at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.), that’s what we are going to do.
The problem with piracy is not going anywhere. Each year in places like Somalia it is becoming part of the local economy. In areas near poorlly governed areas, it threatens the free flow of goods at market prices through the world’s sea lines of communication.
Is it an economic problem, a global security problem, a political problem, or a mixture of that and more?
Join Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne (that’s me!) from “Eagle Speak” for the full hour to discuss these issues and more with their guest, Rear Admiral Terry McKnight, USN (Ret.), former Commander of the anti-piracy CTF-151 off the horn of Africa.
For an Institute dedicated to naval issues, Bold Alligator 2012 has all sorts of subtext. But the one that might be most difficult to miss is the widely announced intention to re-orient more towards the Pacific. And one hardly needs to advocate on this blog for the importance of the appreciation and understanding of military history.
But something is the matter with looking towards the Pacific. It isn’t necessarily that the strategy is wrong. It is that as a country we don’t always appreciate history. This isn’t a ‘kids these days’ sort of comment. A young Israeli officer knows his father’s and grandfather’s war stories. He’s studied since childhood the terrain and nature of the wars he is likely to face. The young American officer is different. In the service of a global power, he will invariably be called upon to fight an unexpected adversary in an unexpected place — witness our entire military history since the end of World War II. The one consistent thing about his father’s and grandfather’s war stories is that he probably won’t be seeing combat there himself.
But there’s something more specific about the reorientation towards the Pacific. It is a reorientation of ‘air-sea battle.’ The reorientation is not just a rebalancing from a decade of ground combat operations against insurgencies in landlocked countries. It has become about the high-end, high-tech capabilities that have gone unused and unnoticed by comparison since the Sept. 11 attacks. (I continue to come back to one book when it comes to new, legitimately game-changing technologies and the practical realities of their cultivation and implementation: FAST TANKS AND HEAVY BOMBERS: Innovation in the U.S. Army 1917-1945 by David E. Johnson) Even Clausewitz teaches us that each commander must be understood in the appropriate context of his circumstance, history, technological circumstance, etc. But the danger with the technology focus is that it tends towards territory that privileges concepts of fundamental, revolutionary change. And that’s particularly dangerous territory when it comes to appropriate appreciation for the lessons of history.
The U.S. has made the decision to return to the Pacific. Much of the thinking is about game-changing, high-end tech and the complexity of getting to the point of being able to successfully execute an air-sea battle concept. What are the best and most relevant histories we can recommend in terms of the long-term, enduring realities of the Pacific? There are many hard-won and costly lessons. Can we create a reading list of the books that best convey those realities and lessons to the servicemen and women who will be implementing this reorientation? What lists already exist that do this?
I would open with two:
- WAR PLAN ORANGE: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945 by Edward S. Miller
For nearly fifty years the U.S. grappled with the fundamental realities of the Pacific theater. It was a messy, contentious and often flawed process (the struggle over the importance of the Philippines and the dominant place it served in the strategy over time is particularly memorable) but it provided the understanding of enduring strategic realities that not only made clear the need to move aggressively from coal to oil (and efficient, long-range oil power plants) but proved to have provided excellent foundations and guidance for the opening phases of the Second World War.
- HELL TO PAY: Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947 by D.M. Giangreco
Particularly insightful immediately following War Plan Orange, Hell to Pay outlines the plans to — and the terrible inadequacies of the intelligence estimates of — invading mainland Japan (something War Plan Orange very explicitly and consistently argued against). Anyone involved in strategic thinking about the Pacific should understand the true cost of ‘rapid termination of the war’ we came all too close to paying.
What else and why?
After a decade dominated by ground wars against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the drill dubbed Bold Alligator is “the largest amphibious exercise conducted by the fleet in the last 10 years,” said Admiral John Harvey, head of US Fleet Forces Command.
The American military, mindful that Marines have spent most of their time in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan since 2001, said the goal was “to revitalize, refine, and strengthen fundamental amphibious capabilities and reinforce the Navy and Marine Corps role as ‘fighters from the sea.'”
The lack of practice at a craft that is immensely complex (amphibious assault) and requires extensive planning and rehearsal has been a concern of the Marine Corps for most of the past decade. Many junior Officers and SNCOs have never been afloat, let alone had anything to do with amphibious operations. Landing plans, serial assignment tables, scheduled, on-call, and unscheduled waves are terms unfamiliar to most. Fire support planning in amphibious operations, challenging in the best of circumstances, must now be done in an environment of austere Naval surface fires.
The BOLD ALLIGATOR exercises, and the war games that reinforce them (EXPEDITIONARY WARRIOR, etc.) will introduce those younger Marines to the art of projecting power ashore from the sea. Shortfalls in capabilities and capacity will be identified, new methods developed to leverage modern platforms, and assumptions either validated or proven incorrect. The bugaboo of every amphibious operation, the command relationship between CATF/CLF, will be examined anew.
The addition of our French allies in this exercise is crucial, as the interoperability of international forces in a coalition operation is always a challenge. Lessons on doctrine, equipment requirements and capabilities, as well as the personal command relationships between seniors, make for more lethal and efficient combat forces.
The landings in North Carolina and Virginia are not being conducted in a vacuum, either:
The threat of mines, anti-ship missiles and small boats in coastal waters conjure up Iran’s naval forces, but the commanders overseeing the drill, Admiral Harvey and Marine Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, say the scenario is not based on any particular country.
When asked by reporters last week, Harvey acknowledged that the exercise scenario was “certainly informed by recent history” and that it was “applicable” to the Strait of Hormuz, as well as other areas.
Harvey also said the exercise incorporated lessons from the 2006 Lebanon conflict, when Iran-backed Hezbollah forces hit an Israeli navy corvette with an anti-ship missile.
This event was important enough to have CNO Admiral Greenert in attendance, and highlights a significant shift in the Navy’s views regarding its role in the amphibious power projection mission. While always publicly supporting the Navy-Marine Corps team, the unofficial position of the Navy toward this mission seemed decidedly luke-warm and was at odds with the Marine Corps over requirements and resources. This is good news for Naval forces whose focus will be the western Pacific. One can bet a paycheck that the USN and USMC will be scribbling furiously, taking copious notes. Lessons will be learned, training will be invaluable.
And best of all, an entirely new generation of Marines will be introduced to the smell of paint, exhaust fumes, crude oil, salt water spray, and vomit that are indelibly etched on every Marine who has climbed down the cargo net, ridden the tuna boats off the well deck through the surf, or splashed ashore from the LCUs. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Perspective is important. The ability to see events as others might see them is a talent that is mightily handy when navigating the shoals of international relations. It would seem that NATO and the US did not conceive of a point of view that could not agree with what is defined now as the “international norm” of the Right to Protect (R2P).
The disbelief and outrage expressed at the veto votes of both Russia and the People’s Republic of China over the UN Resolution regarding Syria leads one to believe that our State Department believed a contrary position on R2P did not credibly exist. Au contraire, points out STRATFOR in this morning’s Geopolitical Diary. STRATFOR posits that perhaps a couple of widely held assumptions are not quite as universal as we had believed. To both the Russians and Chinese, the preservation of human life, and prevention of crimes against innocent civilians or mass killings, still needs to be weighed against the spreading influence of potential geopolitical, military, and economic rivals. Responsibility to Protect, R2P, was for the West in reality E2I, excuse to intervene:
The Russian and Chinese view was that this doctrine opened the door to unlimited interventions not in response to mass murder, but in order to prevent mass murder. From the Chinese and Russian perspective, this would allow intervention based on fears. Fears can be feigned and anyone can assert the threat of mass murder and war crimes. Therefore, the Libyan precedent seemed to be a doctrine that justified intervention based on suspicion of intent. Or, to put it more bluntly, the Russian and Chinese view was that the intervention in Libya was designed to achieve political and economic goals, and the threat of impending mass murder was simply the justification.
China and Russia viewed the Syrian resolution as a preface to more aggressive resolutions also based on the doctrine of preventing atrocities much greater than those already committed. They felt that this would set a permanent principle of international law that they opposed. Their opposition was based on the perception that this was merely a justification for interventions against regimes of which the West disapproved.
Also, an America stretched thinner than its shrinking military resources can reasonably secure works to the advantage of both Russia and China. Not only that, but freedom of navigation in the Straits of Hormuz or elsewhere is not necessarily a universal desire, especially when that freedom means possible interdiction or interruption of vital energy supplies.
Iran is in the process of establishing a sphere of influence in which Syria plays a strategic role. If al Assad survives, his regime will be heavily dependent on Iran. Neither China nor Russia would be particularly troubled by this. Certainly, Russia does not want to see an excessively powerful Iran, but it would welcome any dynamic that would tie American power down in a long-term duel with Iran. Creating a regional balance of power would divert U.S. power in directions that would provide Russia with freedom for maneuver.
The same can be said of China, with the additional proviso that the Chinese do not want to see anything interfere with their energy trade with Iran. So there were two issues for China. First, China did not want a precedent set that might allow an American intervention in Iran. Second, China, like Russia, welcomed the diversion of American power from the South China Sea, where it had been planning to shift forces.
None of this should surprise us. Unfortunately, China and Russia continue to play realpolitik at a time when the US foreign policy team seems unwilling to admit that such power politics even exist. Russia’s dispatch of a Naval flotilla (which included an aircraft carrier) last month to the Syrian port of Tartous was a message strongly sent to both NATO and the United States. The Russian vessels comprised an “influence squadron” if ever there was one. The clear signal to NATO, the members of which share the continent with Russia, was a not-so-subtle “HANDS OFF”. With Russian resurgence a distinct possibility amongst a largely disarmed Europe, and Russian control of the natural gas valves that supply the key NATO economies, the message will be heeded. For the United States, that message, and the message of China’s and Russia’s veto, is slightly more ominous:
What we have now seen is that China and Russia recognize the battlefield and for now are prepared to side with Iran against the United States, a move that makes clear sense from a balance of power perspective.
Perspective. Spelled out very well by STRATFOR.
Nigeria has the second largest oil reserves in Africa and is the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the U.S., approximately eight percent of U.S. oil imports, according to the State Department. This rich resource in the Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea has been a source of internal dissention and attacks on oil and gas platforms, largely by the militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta (MEND).
According to the 15th edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, Nigeria’s Navy includes two frigates, two Erin’mi-class patrol combatants, two operations patrol craft, three non-operational fast patrol boats, fifteen 25-foot boats, and some auxiliary ships. Last month, the Nigerian Navy acquired the former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter CHASE.
Whether the country assesses its assets are insufficient to deal with the threat or another reason, the Nigerian government has awarded a ten-year contract worth USD$130 million for maritime security. The awardee, Global West Vessel Special Nigeria Limited (GWVSL) will provide platforms for tracking ships and cargo, enforcing regulatory compliance, and surveillance of the Nigerian Maritime Domain. The firm is run by Government Tompolo, a former senior MEND militant.
The background of the awardee aside, the contract is opposed by some in Nigeria who believe that maritime security should rest with the Navy and Coast Guard.
This raises two issues: 1) if any state is unable to secure its waters or its commercial assets, who fills the maritime gap, and 2) if PSCs – or, rather, maritime security companies – fill that need, how should they be vetted?
The past few years have boosted the maritime security industry due in no small part to instability and piracy in the Horn of Africa and the need for shipping companies to hire more armed guards. More companies and countries have gradually, albeit reluctantly, recognized that armed riders may be a necessary addition to the cooperative efforts of state navies. (The Philippines just became the latest country to permit its flagged ships to use maritime security.)
I first interviewed Dominic Mee, CEO of Protection Vessels International, two years ago about maritime security companies offering escort vessels. “We would welcome more regulation…this would help the reputation of the industry.” Just last week, the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) announced that its International Accreditation Program will include a three-stage process of due diligence that includes: financial and legal checks, physical verification, and checks on deployed operations (source: MarineInsight.com 4 February 2012). Such efforts might improve, as Mee said, the reputation of the industry and, more importantly, accountability.
Lieutenant Commander Berube is the co-editor of the recently published “Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century.” These views are his own and not those of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Here’s a link to a 17 minute presentation that explains much.
As the old Strategic Air Command motto had it: “Peace is our profession”
- Range, Reach, Risk, Russians, and the Triumph of the Anti-Transformationalists
- Aboard the Charles de Gaulle: Sea Power and la République
- On Midrats 22 November 2015 – Episode 307: Our Own Private Petard – Procurement & Strategy with Robert Farley
- Leveraging our military relationships on the homefront
- Bring your voice once more unto the breach