Many continue to focus on the “Pacific Pivot” and/or IndoPac, but the news seems to keep finding its way back to Africa.
This Sunday we’re going to leave IndoPac and all that in order to focus the full hour discussing the eastern part of Africa with a returning guest Alex Martin who will give us a first hand report from a personal and professional perspective.
Alex graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to lead infantry, reconnaissance and special operations units in multiple combat deployments. Upon leaving active duty, Alex started a private maritime security company that served commercial shipping interests in the Indian Ocean. In July 2013 Alex joined Nuru International and currently serves as a Foundation Team Leader in Kenya.
The last time we talked to Alex was shortly after he and his Marines were involved in retaking a ship from Somali pirates.
Join us live if you can (or pick us up later if you can’t) by clicking here.
Over a 48 hour period, the 15th MEU/PELARG team conducted offensive air operations in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of 5 confirmed enemy fighters, provided disaster relief in Pakistan to 120 victims who had been without aid since July, and seized a pirated vessel, rescuing a crew of 11 hostages and detaining 9 suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia. A busy couple of days and an impressive battle-rhythm by any standard for this dynamic Navy-Marine Corps team.
For her part, the USS Dubuque was 1,500 miles away from her command ship, the USS Peleliu, and attached to Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) – the international counter piracy task force – when the events associated with the pirated motor vessel occurred. She spent the night of 7 September escorting vessels through shipping corridors in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden.
A few hours after first light on the 8th (approximately 0830 Bahrain time), the Turkish frigate TCG Gökçeada, CTF 151 flagship, received a distress call from Motor Vessel (M/V) Olib G, a Maltese-flagged, Greek-owned chemical tanker. Gökçeada immediately launched her helicopters for ISR. Once on station they reported seeing two pirates with RPGs aboard the Olib G.
An hour later, in a second (unrelated) incident, the Antigua-flagged Motor Vessel Magellan Star reported that they were being boarded by pirates and the crew had locked themselves in what they later called their “citadel.”
TCG Gökçeada moved to the scene and discovered a skiff with two outboard motors and no crew. The USS Princeton (CG 59) was less than 15 nautical miles from the Magellan Star and made best course and speed to join the Turkish frigate. The USS Dubuque was ordered to the scene shortly thereafter.
The pirate attack and subsequent boarding and rescue operation took place in the Gulf of Aden, approximately 85 miles southeast of Mukallah, Yemen.
I was in my stateroom that morning having a cup of coffee when Major Mike “Honcho” Ford, a burly southerner with a cowboy’s drawl, knocked on my door. “Hey man,” he said calmly, “we got a ship that’s been pirated. No official tasking yet, I’ll pass you a sitrep when I get it. Go ahead and put the guys on alert-120.” As the 15th MEU’s Maritime Raid Force Commander, the platoon and I had been training with “Honcho” for nearly a year for this mission, so what happened over the next 60 minutes was by now a well-rehearsed standard operating procedure.
I called down to the men’s berthing. Few words were exchanged between my acting-platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Hartrick, and myself. “Staff Sergeant, skipper” “Yes sir.” “A vessel’s been taken by pirates – I don’t have much else for you at this time. Set alert-120.” “On it, sir.” We both hung up.
The guys swung into action, pulled pre-staged shooter’s kits, body armor, weapons, ammunition, communication and breaching equipment and moved it to our assembly area. Comm was op-checked, weapons were function checked and set in the best condition possible, shooters performed their pre-assigned tasks to meet our conditions for a 120 minute alert status while assistant team leaders conducted simultaneous individual inspections: flotation devices, chem lights, breathing devices, roster cards, tourniquets, medical equipment, lights, night vision, weapons, comm…all given one last op-check. I barked out a quick warning order and dropped my kit at our assembly area and moved to the ship’s tactical control center.
Lt. Col Clearfield, the overall Mission Commander, was seated at the desk communicating on various phones and computers. I reported in. “Hey Alex, here’s the update (followed by an intelligence and operational update), go ahead and set alert-60.” “Yes sir.” And we did…moving then into a 60 minute ready posture. The next step would be alert 30, which means full kit, waiting for the green light.
An announcement was made over the ship’s loud speaker as the Dubuque made an impressive 20 knots (not bad for the third oldest ship in the Navy) towards the Critical Contact of Interest (CCOI): “Assemble the crisis action team.” It was repeated again. Everyone it seemed was already assembled, busily preparing their notes, thoughts and briefing products as we awaited the arrival of the ship’s skipper, Captain Bolt, and Mission Commander, Lt. Col. Clearfield.
By now it was late morning, early afternoon on the 8th of September. I was sitting behind the BLT’s Operation Officer, Major Tom Tennant, and across from S2 Capt Mark Powers in the ship’s flag plot. Copenhagen in lip, coffee in hand. The excitement was palpable, but all players were calm, focused and prepared to brief and execute what for us had become a well rehearsed assault package.
Lt Col Clearfield entered. The room came to attention, and was quickly put at ease. He broke out his notepad and briefed us on the situation. There has been a ship taken over by pirates (“suspected pirates” the lawyers would later remind us), the crew of 11 is safe and has locked themselves in the engine room, the pirates are showing no signs they wish to surrender, they are armed and aggressively posturing. We have no official tasking to board at this time. But still, he said, we’re going to plan this out and prepare to execute.
Major Brian Dryzga, a Huey pilot and the MRF’s Air Mission Commander (AMC), briefed that his birds (Hueys and Cobra gunships) were spotted on the deck, loaded with fuel and ammunition and ready to launch when we arrive on station if needed to provide ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) . Honcho talked us through the template, handed out taskings and provided his guidance as the assault force’s immediate officer in charge.
Captain Bolt and Command Master Chief Rosado walked in the room. “Attention on deck!” “Please, take your seats.” “This is what I know…” and he briefed the most up to date intelligence he had from NAVCENT’s Maritime Operation Center (MOC) and TF 151. He paused, issued his intent with the ship’s maneuver and overall plan once on station with the two warships already in the vicinity of the pirated ship, smiled, ordered us back to work and left for the bridge.
We each broke to our rooms and offices. I readied the 15 slides or so that is the assault piece of the brief package, and as I pressed “send” over to Honcho so he could finish populating the entire brief, we had official tasking to take station and be prepared to execute pending higher’s authority…we didn’t, at the time, know just what “higher” meant…but that’s a funny story for later.
A huge lesson here was just how well the Marine Corps’ Rapid Reaction Planning Process (R2P2) works with a capable and well-rehearsed battle-staff.
All essential personnel, including every member of our 24 man platoon (call sign: Blue Collar) who comprises the assault element, crowded into the ship’s wardroom. The plan was briefed and confirmed. We set alert-30 and made our way to the ship’s side port, kitted up and waited for the command to execute.
That command wouldn’t come that evening…we’d later move back to our rooms to get what sleep we could before our 0300 reveille and would reattack the next morning.
A brief anecdote from those hours we spent at alert-30 in the small confines of that side port that would be our final position before we launched the assault: “Hey sir,” yelled SSgt Homestead who was talking to Capt Doug Verblaauw, the ANGLICO Det OIC managing air up on the bridge wing, “the execute order’s now at the three-star level.” Everyone looked at each other half-suspiciously.
Then reports came to us about the pirates onboard. They were armed. They were aggressive. They were pointing their weapons at the warships. They were making demands. They were non-compliant. They refused repeated attempts by the Princeton to surrender. They said they would stay on and fight.
“They’ll say go now,” someone said, “won’t they?” We waited and waited. “Hey,” Homestead yelled, “listen up, the decision is now at CENTCOM.” Pause. “General Mattis!” someone said, and the entire platoon ignited in a spontaneous cheer. A second pause. A sergeant remarks, “Man, now it’s gonna take even longer,” he said, jokingly. “Whatcha talking about man, it’s General Mattis! We’re golden.” “No brother, now we’ll have to wait for him to get aboard…you know the General will wanna be with us on this hit.” Everyone laughed and felt relieved…this was going to happen afterall.
An hour later, still waiting, we asked each other, “I wonder what the hold up is?” Darkness was less than an hour away, time was running out. Homestead again: “Hey guys, the execute order…” we all pulled our headsets off one of our ears to best hear him, “it’s at the President.” From the platoon: silence.
I think it was Staff Sergeant “Big Daddy” Holm who from right behind me captured the mood at that moment when he broke the brief silence with that wonderful and all-encompassing euphemism: “Holy shit.”
The BLT’s Chaplain, LCDR Mike Foskett prayed for us, and by the next dawn, we were off…
Avoiding a commentary on our tactics, I’ll say that we gained a foothold in short order on what was certainly the most challenging entry we’ve made in all of our 15 full mission profile rehearsals.
As we sped towards our assault point, I took my eye from my scope and appreciated, for a split second, what was unfolding: a spectacular symphony of naval power. Huey, Cobra and SH-60 helicopters, a US Cruiser, a Turkish Frigate, an LPD and a pirated ship in a sort of tactical tango. The sun was rising over my left shoulder. Snipers and the birds were covering our approach. The decisive moment was hundreds of meters away, and closing, fast. Back behind the scope. No time.
I was with Alpha Element, which was led by Staff Sergeant Homestead. We were first on the boat and moved to the superstructure as Bravo Element, led by Staff Sergeant Hartrick, made their way aft and then below decks…
The details of what happened next are important as they highlight the individual actions of 24 highly trained shooters who were put in decision points of the highest moral magnitude: when to shoot, when not to shoot. I can’t go into all those details at this time, but the long and short of it was: some of the enemy threw their hands up when rifles were put in their face, some ran and attempted to elude us in the superstructure but were run down and some hesitated but were taken down by less than lethal force, as the situation dictated. The end result was 9 pirates captured in an opposed boarding and 11 crew members rescued.
I’ve never been more proud than I was watching the balance of violence of action and professional restraint that is the hallmark of a true professional warrior.
The crew rescue, which was Bravo Element’s doing, was a second, equally important story. The recovery amounted to a 3 hour effort. And Blue Collar seemed a fitting call sign as I watched my guys defeat half a dozen obstacles in confined spaces using thermal torches, power saws, and heavy tools. The physical stamina of the Marines cutting the doors and barricades the crew set in as their own defense against the pirates was impressive. I watched as they rotated on the equipment, all the while holding security, and thought: these are some tough ass blue collar pipe hitters.
Despite announcements I was making over the ship’s loudspeaker to the crew (in Russian and English), despite loudspeaker callouts made inside the spaces by the Marines, and despite a pre-planned arrangement between the crew and Captain Bolt (which was briefed to me, Cold War style, at 3 am on the morning of the assault, and involved British maritime shipping and insurance agencies, soviet-bloc code words and authentications, a Polish captain, Russian and a mixed international crew, Somalian pirates with hostages who threatened to “burn her” and a Turkish command vessel) the crew kept falling back to defensive positions, scared and uncertain of what was happening. In classical Murphy fashion, they lost their phone’s battery power the very minute we boarded their ship.
Deep in the engine room, Bravo Element continued to work the problem, as 1st Lt Williams and his trailer Marines rushed to conduct a detailed clearance of all spaces as well as augment the breaching effort. Alpha Element coordinated the entry of the US Coast Guard LEDET (Law Enforcement Detachment), NCIS, the Dubuque’s VBSS team and a constant resupply effort that was underway to bring us water, breaching tools, and the ship’s damage control experts.
They finally cut one last hole, and called in with our loudspeaker that it was safe, the Marines had control of their ship, and to please come out. The ship’s captain peered hesitatingly from behind a steel bulkhead, still unwilling to come forward. Sgt Chesmore ripped an American flag patch from his shooter’s kit and held into the room as a final identification. The captain broke into a huge smile and immediately called his crew from their hiding places. They ran forward, unlocked the final barricaded door in their “citadel” and were escorted topside. Excited. Exhausted. And happy to have their ship back.
As I walked the captain up to his bridge, he examined all the cut doors, and burnt hallways and remarked, “bastard pirates, they really did a number to my ship.” Walking behind him I replied, ironically: “Yeah. They sure did.”
While this was the end of the day for us, the Navy’s day (which had started much earlier and ended much later) was still far from over. The Navy’s VBSS team, led by Lt. Danny Rigdon and Ens. Mark Bote boarded and took charge of the bridge while their aggressive and highly trained petty officers set to work at once on the rest of the ship (now a highly sensitive crime scene). The Dub’s veteran (read: old) DCA, Lt Jg Mike Fought came aboard and assessed all the ship’s damage and aided with damage assessment. The entire crew of the Dubuque – from those in Combat, in the bridge, down in engineering, out on the boat decks, and up on the flight deck – contributed to the day’s success. It was a 1,000 man effort. Blue and Green.
The actions of the day reflect the potency of a Navy-Marine Corps team afloat that, above all else, trusts each other. It reflects the importance of actually performing VADM McRaven’s tenants of: simplicity in planning, repetition in rehearsal, and security, speed, surprise, and purpose in execution. But really, the Dubuque’s Commanding Officer, Captain Bolt, said it best when he closed the debrief saying that “the word of the day was professionalism.” And I think that captured the true spirit of this operation. Well, that and the few choice words of Big Daddy Holm…
More from Alex on Piracy: The Reality of Piracy
Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul. ~ Michel de Montaigne
Sgt. Jason Pacheco, 23, scout sniper instructor, Division Schools, 1st Marine Division, from Las Vegas, N.M., uses his prosthetic leg as support for an M40 Sniper Rifle as an example for students on a firing range at Camp Pendleton Aug. 30, 2011. Pacheco suffered a severed leg after an improvised explosive device detonated beneath him during a patrol in Afghanistan August 2010. He has re-enlisted and said he hopes to continue training in preparation to return to full duty. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy Lenzo)
MARINE CORPS ORDERS
No. 47 (Series 1921)
HEADQUARTERS U.S. MARINE CORPS
Washington, November 1, 1921
759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the
10 November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it
will be read upon receipt.
(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental
Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name “Marine”. In memory of them it is
fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the
glories of its long and illustrious history.
(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous
military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the
Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the
Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home,
generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every
corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.
(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves
with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come
to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.
(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received
from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit
which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of
the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal
to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will
regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of
the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.
JOHN A. LEJEUNE,
Major General Commandant
Some from this blog -
Check out other posts/articles from our friends:
December 7, 1941...September 11, 2001...November 10, 2011
For ten years now, our Corps has been engaged in continuous combat operations against those who threaten the security of America and our allies. We turned the tide in the Anbar province of Iraq and continue to see success today in southwest Afghanistan. While it has come at a cost … we have much to be proud of.
This past year in operations around the world including humanitarian disaster relief, counter-piracy, theater security cooperation, special operations, counter-insurgency and many more, you continued to solidify our place as America’s expeditionary force in readiness. Since the Continental Congress created two battalions of Marines 236 years ago, our legacy as an ever-ready, ever-capable, victory-producing organization remains intact.
Our rich heritage of selfless service and fidelity to Nation and to one another lives on in all who currently wear the eagle, globe and anchor—those who have answered the clarion call to duty with remarkable courage, dedication and unshakable resolve that Marines are so well known for. To all Marines—past and present—and especially to our families … I extend
my deep gratitude for all you have done and all you continue to do.
As we celebrate our 236th Birthday, let us look forward to future challenges—whatever they may be—and reaffirm our pledge to be America’s premier crisis response force; to be the
first to fight … always ready for the toughest and most challenging assignments.
Happy Birthday, Marines, and Semper Fidelis!
James F. Amos
General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps
As is standard when working with the Royal Navy – tactically seamless and it moves as smooth as silk.
MONMOUTH launched her Lynx helicopter from 60 miles away to assess the situation. Lt Chris Easterbrook Royal Navy, pilot of the Ship’s helicopter “Black Knight” said:“Having heard about the distress of the CARAVOS HORIZON, we urgently launched to assess the threat to the merchant vessel and to provide real-time information to MONMOUTH. We stood off at a distance, relaying the current situation and taking photographs and video footage to aid the Commanding Officer’s decision making process. We had to make sure that we understood the situation onboard fully, in order to determine what level of threat the boarding team may face once embarked.”
At the same time, communications were established with the Master of the MV CARAVOS HORIZON, safe inside his citadel with his 23 crew. He provided information on what had happened to his ship, but was unaware of the current situation onboard and had not heard any activity outside the citadel.
Whilst approaching, MONMOUTH was also liaising with a nearby US warship, USS BATAAN (LHD 5), dispatched a MH-60S helicopter to assist and provide a wider area of surveillance. Analysing all the reports that were coming in, there appeared to be no sign of the attackers and only a ladder over the side of MV CARAVOS HORIZON was spotted.
A team of Royal Marine Commandos, backed up by a Royal Navy Boarding Team, embarked on MV CARAVOS HORIZON by helicopter and boats. They systematically worked their way through the vessel ensuring it was clear of intruders. Lt Harry Lane RM, the Officer Commanding the Royal Marines, said:
“I was immensely proud of the way my team conducted themselves. This was a time critical operation; it was late in the day and we had very few daylight left. At the very minimum we needed to get on board and into the superstructure of the merchant vessel before last light. We were able to achieve this with some very quick planning and the use of the RN boarding team to bolster our numbers.”
As soon as it became clear that the attackers had fled, the boarding team freed the crew from their refuge and handed control of the vessel back to the Master.
Communication, secure locations for the crew to hold up and wait, and more importantly a military that is willing to put tough men in harms way who are willing to execute violence to permit the free flow of commerce; simple concept that works charms. Works even better with allies who deploy with few to any caveats beyond standard Force-wide ROE.
BZ to all involved in this Combined action. As it should be.
As a side-bar; speaking of our friends at USNIBlog — I think we know some rotorheads that might be with the BATAAN.
If he doesn’t make his PAO get me pictures ……
Much of the conversation about the USMC over the last decade has been about its “Second Land Army” status …. well …. Marines are still second to none at their core skill set. In case someone forgot that – fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne and my guest this week on Midrats and his Marines reminded everyone of not just that – but the power of the Navy-Marine Corp team.
Over a 48 hour period , the 15th MEU/PELARG team conducted offensive air operations in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of 5 confirmed enemy fighters, provided disaster relief in Pakistan to 120 victims who had been without aid since July, and seized a pirated vessel, rescuing a crew of 11 hostages and detaining 9 suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia.
Yep – it is a USNIBlogg’r Fest on Midrats; our guest will be Captain Alexander Martin, USMC – the leader of the team that took back The Magellan Star, and a someone whose work you can find here on USNIBlog. A sample:
A 2004 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, his career has been dominated by the Long War. It is that perspective and experience that EagleOne and I will tap in to today, Sunday 30 JAN 2011 from 5-6pm EST. From Piracy to proper manning and equipping our Marines – we’ll try to run the spectrum.
Join us live if you can, and pile in with the usual suspects in the chat room during the show where you can offer your own questions and observations to our guests. If you miss the show or want to catch up on the shows you missed – you can always reach the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.
Let Us Dare to Read, Think, Speak, Write – and BLOG
Admiral Jim Stavridis is an Annapolis graduate with a PhD in international relations from Tufts University. He has held multiple commands at sea and various strategic planning jobs in the Pentagon. He has published four books and over a hundred print articles – but now focuses on blogging and other web-centric means of communicating ideas. His interests are joint, international, interagency, and private-public cooperation in Europe as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander of U.S. European Command.
Alexander Martin Captain Alexander Martin, USMCR, is an infantry officer who has served as as a platoon commander in infantry, recon and force recon units. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a sailing enthusiast and lives in La Jolla, California, where he was raised.
Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. assumed command of United States Fleet Forces Command in July 2009. Admiral Harvey is a Baltimore native and a 1973 U.S. Naval Academy graduate. His interests include history and political science. He is a regular blog contributor and established the U.S. Fleet Forces Command Blog.
The Bunny is a former naval officer, the third generation in her family to serve. She runs the marketing programs at a military non-profit and is the author of three non-fiction books about the military. She has a master’s degree in marketing communications. Her middle name is “pro bono,” as she loves to volunteer with veterans and the elderly and, especially, elderly veterans. She serves on several charitable non-profit boards of directors and continues to moonlight as a writer. She was nicknamed “The Bunny” five years ago as a veiled reference to her energy level (remember the Energizer Bunny?).
Christopher Albon is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy. Christopher could talk about them forever. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Jen. Chris Albon’s blog/
Eagle1 is an attorney and a retired Navy Reserve Captain (Surface Warfare). His military experience includes service in destroyers, the logistics force, inshore security, and naval control of shipping. He held command of a Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit and several other reserve units. A Navy ROTC grad, he saw active duty service off Vietnam and was recalled for Desert Storm and Kosovo. His legal practice includes maritime law. His blog is www.eaglespeak.us.
Fouled Anchor is a retired Senior Chief who served 20 years in the Intelligence Community, including service in the joint environment and with NATO partners. His experience includes operational intelligence billets ashore and afloat, and significant human resources and training assignments. He earned a bachelors and a masters degree while on active duty.
Fred Fry is a Marine Transportation graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy and MBA graduate of Finland’s Helsinki School of Economics. He has worked in the maritime industry both at sea and ashore for his whole career and has experience working both in the US and in Europe. Fred is the author of the weekly series ‘Maritime Monday‘ hosted at gCaptain and also blogs on his own site, Fred Fry International.
YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III Petty Officer Gauthier entered the Naval Service in 2006 as a part of Division 931 (Hall of Fame). After Yeoman “A” School, he reported aboard the USS SAN ANTONIO (LPD 17) for duty August 2006. December 2006 he was frocked to YN3; May of 2008 he was frocked to YN2. In December of 2008 he qualified as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS), after SAN ANTONIO’s maiden deployment, he took orders as an Individual Augmentee (IA) in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM in Bagram and Kandahar Airfields. After his IA tour he reported for duty at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) supporting SACEUR Strategic Communications and Allied Command Operations– Public Affairs. His interests and hobbies include: History, foreign affairs, strategy based video games, physics, philosophy, science fiction and electronic dance music.
Galrahn is an alias for Raymond Pritchett. Raymond is a technologist, entrepreneur, and owns a technology consulting company in upstate New York. His experience ranges from the technical roles in secure Enterprise IT architectures, internet media marketing and business strategies, and developing secure information sharing technologies between clients and partners. Raymond has worked for numerous private companies in a variety of industries, with previous clients ranging from Wal-Mart to Government in a variety of industries ranging from health care to massive multi-player online gaming. Raymond has no military experience, is self educated, and is the owner of the blog Information Dissemination.
Jeannette Gaudry Haynie, currently a Major in the Marine Corps Reserves, is an Annapolis graduate (Class of 1998), New Orleans native, and an AH-1W Cobra pilot by trade. She recently completed her MA in Political Science (focusing on gender and international conflict) and is starting her doctoral work this fall. She is married to a Marine Corps infantry officer and they live in Alexandria, VA, with their three children. Her interests are politics, conflict, running, her kids, and the New Orleans Saints.
M. Ittleschmerz is a post command, senior officer currently on active duty whose service at sea and ashore includes a variety of operational commands and major staff experience.
Jeff Withington graduated from the Naval Academy and was commissioned an ensign in May 2010. He completed the first phase of his nuclear power training in February 2011 and has now entered Prototype training. He was an honors history major and minored in Chinese.
Jack James is a midshipman in the class of 2012 at the U.S. Naval Academy. A member of the nationally ranked Naval Academy triathlon team, he spent his summer cruises on the LPD-19 Mesa Verde and with a West Coast SEAL Team. A Quantitative Economics major, he will also minor in Chinese. After graduation, he will receive a commission as a Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal officer.
LT Ryan Erickson is an Active Duty Officer in the United States Coast Guard. He began his military career in 1995 joining the U.S. Army as an 11B Infantryman (240B Gunner) with the 1/75 Ranger Battalion. Upon completion of his tour he was assigned to the Washington State National Guard and in 1999 changed course to join the U.S. Coast Guard. His time in the USCG has included a tour in Kodiak, AK as an Avionics Technician and HC-130H Navigator, and a tour in Elizabeth City, NC as a plank-owner of the C-130J program. In 2004 he was accepted to Officer Candidate School; on graduation, he was stationed at Sector Seattle (now Sector Pacific Northwest), Washington where he was the supervisor of their Vessel Board and Search Team and a Command Duty Officer in the Joint Harbor Operations Center. From 2008 to 2011 LT Erickson was stationed in Portsmouth, VA as a member of LANT Command Center; he’s currently enjoying a tour in Alaska. You can find Ryan blogging daily, mostly on matters of the Coast Guard, on 1790.us and/or his personal site of ryanerickson.com.
Military History Buffs are avid consumers of all types of military history, but especially Navy history. They love the stories behind our country’s rich maritime heritage and spend the majority of their free time buried in historical books and museums. They are military veterans themselves and might even name their next child Decatur.
Nathan Hughes served as an enlisted mortarman with the 1st Marine Division, deploying with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2002 and Regimental Combat Team-1 to Iraq in 2003. He has also embedded briefly with Marines in Afghanistan. Nathan is the Director of Military Analysis at STRATFOR, a global intelligence company. He was a third place winner of the annual Proceedings Robotics essay contest in 2010 and has also contributed to The Marine Corps Gazette and National Defense.
Steeljaw Scribe is a senior defense consultant and retired Navy Captain. A former Hawkeye squadron CO, he has over 3,000 hours and 500-plus traps in the E-2C and several other aircraft. With additional duties and experience spanning from CVN navigator to Special Assistant to the CNO for Joint Matters and operations from the Arctic to the Middle East and South America, he brings a unique perspective to his writing with interests focused on naval and aviation operations and history, nuclear strategy and policy issues and missile defense. SJS, as he is known in the blogging world since 2006, is a graduate of The Citadel, Naval War College and Naval Postgraduate School, holding a Master’s in National Security Studies from the latter. He has published articles in several periodicals and is presently working on two books. Steeljaw Scribe’s Website
UltimaRatioRegis: The Last Argument of Kings is a Reserve Marine Lieutenant Colonel, an Artillery officer with 22 years of service. He has servedin all four Marine Divisions, and is a combat veteran of OIFII. In his civilian occupation, he is an emergency planner in New England, and is a qualified exercise developer who has participated in the planning and conduct of myriad federal and state exercises with scenarios ranging from natural disaster to terrorism to cyber attack. His current USMCR unit supports Title X war games for all services.
Yankee Sailor is CDR Chris van Avery. A recent convert to the Foreign Area Officer community, he was a Surface Warfare Officer for 19 years of active and reserve service. He has served on destroyers, amphibs and an aircraft carrier, and participated in conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Gulf War and Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. While in the private sector, he worked in the fields of information technology and publishing. In the past he has been a regular contributor to Navy Times and Military.com, and wrote occasionally for Proceedings and Armed Forces Journal. He holds a BS in Management and an MA in National Security Studies (honors) with a concentration in the Middle East. Finally, he writes regularly at InformationDissemination and shares a daily feed of stories with comments via Google Reader.
Admiral Thad W. Allen assumed the duties of the 23rd Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on May 25th, 2006. As such, he leads the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), comprised of about 42,000 men and women on Active Duty, 7,000 civilians, 8,000 Reservists and 34,000 volunteer Auxiliarists. He is the only four-star Admiral of the Coast Guard, and is appointed for a four year term by the President of the United States upon confirmation of the US Senate. The Coast Guard Commandant is not a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He reports to the President, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Defense. Prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the Coast Guard Commandant reported to the Secretary of Transportation. The Coast Guard is America’s oldest continuous seagoing service and is a Federal law enforcement agency as well as a branch of the armed forces. The Coast Guard serves the American people by saving lives and property at sea; ensuring the safety of thousands of professional mariners and millions of recreational and commercial vessels; protecting our ports and maritime infrastructure from terrorism, securing our borders, maintaining aids to navigation, responding to natural disasters, defending our Nation, conducting humanitarian operations, protecting our marine environment, and keeping shipping routes open and clear of hazards. The Coast Guard is “Semper Paratus” – Always Ready to respond to All Hazards – All Threats.To keep up with Admiral Allen and his activities as Commandant visit www.uscg.mil/comdt. Be sure to sign up for RSS feed of his journal, iCommandant.
Chapman Godbey, USN is a foreign area officer on active duty with enlisted, submarine, expeditionary strike group, and staff experience. He has written for a variety of publications, including USNI Proceedings.
Defense Springboard is an academic who began engaging in national security debates as a doctoral student in Biomedical Sciences at Harvard University. After earning his degree in 2005, he lectures somewhere on the West Coast, and his research interests range from biological weaponry to littoral engagement. A frequent contributor to USNI’s Proceedings Magazine, Springboard has published in the Naval War College Review, Navy Medicine, National Defense Magazine, The Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Defense Springboard’s Blog
Eric Wertheim is a defense consultant, columnist and author specializing in naval and air force issues. He was named to the helm of the internationally acknowledged, one volume Naval Institute reference Combat Fleets of the World in 2002. As author and editor, his duties include tracking, analyzing and compiling data and photography on every vessel, aircraft and major weapon system, in every naval and paranaval force in the world – from Albania to Zimbabwe. He leads an independent maritime intelligence effort that spans the globe to produce the book commonly known as “Combat Fleets.” Mr. Wertheim has served as a speechwriter for senior Pentagon officials and as a consultant to best-selling authors, publishers and nonprofit organizations, and he has been instrumental in the advancement of numerous high-technology weapons and concepts. From 1994 through 2004 he wrote the bimonthly “Lest We Forget” column on historic U.S. warships for the Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine. In 2004 he began writing a monthly “Combat Fleets” column for the magazine, and his annual review of world navies runs in the March issue of the magazine. He is the coauthor with Norman Polmar of the books, Chronology of the Cold War at Sea and Dictionary of Military Abbreviations, both published by the Naval Institute Press.
Frogman is a former Marine Corps Captain who spent fours years as a Force Reconnaissance Platoon and Detachment Commander. During that tour of duty he commanded an clandestine surveillance and deep reconnaissance platoon for the 24th and 26th MEU (SOC). The detachment was trained in in-extremis hostage rescue, free fall and close circuit diving insertion, and limited scale raids. Frogman has conducted special operation missions in support of other government agencies in Cuba, Haiti, Arabia, Italy, Somalia, Liberia, and South America. Prior to his tour at Force Recon, Frogman was a Rifle and Weapons Platoon Commander in a Marine Rifle Battalion. Frogman’s military decorations include the Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Humanitarian Service Award, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and Joint Special Operations Award. Currently, Frogman works in private equity focused on distressed companies and works in support of the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation.
Jim Dolbow (on Leave of Absence) is a writer, Coast Guard Reserve Officer, and former defense staffer on Capitol Hill. From February 2000 to January 2007, Jim served as Legislative Director/Military Legislative Assistant for Congressman John Hostettler (IN-08). In this capacity, he handled Congressman Hostettler’s House Armed Services Committee portfolio. Jim received his commission in the United States Coast Guard Reserve on 31 July 2002. His advanced degrees include an MA in National Security & Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College and an M.A. in Statecraft and World Politics from The Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C.
On May 26, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger signed an agreement aboard USS Iwo Jima “formalizing their intention to reinstate Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) programs at Columbia” after an absence of 40 years. The history between the Navy and Columbia dates back to at least the Jacksonian era.
On February 3, 1830, Columbia College President William Alexander Duer wrote to Commodore Isaac Chauncy – then in command of the Brooklyn Navy Yard – offering schooling at Columbia for local young naval officers under certain specified terms. Chauncey forwarded the suggestion to Secretary of the Navy John Branch: “This proposal is a liberal one, not more expensive than the navy yard schools…I certainly should prefer a Naval School, if Congress would authorize one.” He echoed this sentiment to Duer: This proposal seems to me to be liberal and fair, and I am sure that great good would result to the service by accepting it.” Chauncey recommended to Branch attaching a naval officer to the college for “superintending the young officers, and enforcing discipline.”
It’s unclear if any naval officers were non-matriculated students at Columbia that decade, but if President Duer made the recommendation to the Navy, perhaps it was because he had some familiarity with the organization.
Following is a summary from Christopher McKee’s A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815*:
Duer was the son of William Duer, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Alexander Hamilton; his maternal grandfather was Revolutionary War General William Alexander (aka Lord Stirling.) Duer went bankrupt when his extensive private speculations collapsed and he died in debtor’s prison in May 1799. The younger Duer was “forced to abandon legal studies at the height of the Quasi-War with France to accept an appointment in the navy” and assigned to the frigate John Adams in the Caribbean On June 16, 1800, in Martinique, one of his fellow midshipman claimed Duer stabbed him in the thigh. Admonished by Lieutenant Francis Ellison, Duer again attempted to draw his dirk then struck Ellison and stated that he would murder him and others on the ship. He was ordered to stand trial by court martial.
Duer’s mother, Lady Catherine Duer appealed directly to President John Adams that her son be allowed to resign his commission rather than stand trial. Adams “urged [Secretary of the Navy] Stoddart to accept the resignation of ‘this unhappy youth,’ and threw most of the blame on [the frigate] Adams’s commander, Richard V. Morris, for not controlling the amount of wine consumed by the midshipmen’s mess at Dinner.” Duer returned to law school, practiced law, and became a politician and judge before becoming president of Columbia College.
LCDR Claude Berube is a member of the USNI Editorial Board and teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation about Andrew Jackson’s navy.
*This correspondence can be found at the National Archives, Center for Legislative Archives (House Committee on Naval Affairs, HR21A-D17.5).
*Duer/Chauncey Correspondence courtesy of Columbia University Archives
- On Midrats 29 March 15 – Episode 273: Partnership, Influence, Presence and the role of the MSC
- The Pen and the Sword: An Interview with Professor Timothy Demy on Reading Fiction and Studying War
- On Midrats 22 March 2015 – Episode 272: Naval Professionalism; up, down, and back again – with Will Beasley
- Missile Defense and Budget Issues
- On Midrats 3/15/15 – Episode 271: “Red Flag and the Development USAF Fighter “