5 years, 12 months ago
Battalion Landing Team 2/6, Golf Company, 3rd Platoon, a unit with which The Captain’s Journal is intimately familiar, is now engaged in counterpiracy.
Members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are participating in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, a spokesman for Marine Corps headquarters said Thursday.
Amphibious transport dock San Antonio, the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, is carrying a reinforced Marine platoon, said 2nd Lt. Josh Diddams. Officials will not say how many Marines are on the ship, which left Camp Lejeune, N.C., in late August with the Norfolk, Va.-based Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. A typical Marine infantry platoon consists of about 40 troops.
Task Force 151 is a multinational force recently organized to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases along Somalia’s coast, where last year more than 40 vessels were hijacked, including a Saudi tanker carrying $100 million worth of crude oil and a Ukrainian ship loaded with tanks and other weapons bound for Kenya. The task force is operating in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea.
Sailors and Marines on the San Antonio spent weeks preparing the ship for its role as the command ship and afloat forward staging base for the task force, according to a Navy report. Marines on the ship include those with 3rd platoon, Golf Infantry Company, a military police detachment and intelligence personnel, according to the report.
The MEU, which recently left Kuwait after two weeks of training at Camp Buehring, did not respond to questions about the anti-piracy mission.
The Marines are currently (or were) on board the amphibious dock USS San Antonio.
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio transits the Gulf of Aden to serve as command ship for Combined Task Force 151. The task force conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.
The folks at Information Dissemination are engaged in some hand wringing over comments made by Tom Ricks.
I was disappointed when I read Thomas Ricks strategic assessment regarding the Navy’s approach to piracy.
Tom Ricks is an astute observer of military strategy, and if he sees the pirate situation off Somalia as simply a way to take a cheap shot at the disaster called naval shipbuilding strategy, then I’m afraid nobody in the media may understand what is and has happened. I’d like to welcome Thomas Ricks to the blogosphere by suggesting that when it comes to maritime strategy as it relates to the issue of Somali piracy, he doesn’t appear to know what he is talking about. Thomas Ricks writes:
Better late that never to be going after the Somalia pirates. To me, this is a strategic issue. Keeping the sea lanes open, especially for oil, should be a top priority for the U.S. military. Instead we seemed to defer to the Indians, Chinese and others, letting them take the lead. The Navy may feel that all its special operators — the guys trained to board and take over ships — are busy in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, admiral, does that tell you that you probably need more ship boarders, and maybe fewer aircraft carriers or anti-missile systems? You think maybe?
I noted that Yankee Sailor left a comment on the thread. I’m betting Thomas Ricks has no idea who Yankee Sailor is, nor why Yankee Sailor’s opinion is more informed. We know better. I have a lot of problems with the assessment Tom is making here, starting with what the top priority for the US military should be. If the top priority of the US military, including the Navy, isn’t winning the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, then something is wrong. There is a reason why there are more sailors deployed on land in the CENTCOM area of operations than at sea, and that reason is absolutely valid.
This is a strategic issue as Tom contends, but with the assertion of “better late than never” and the suggestion that “Indians, Chinese and others” taking leadership roles is somehow representative of a failure of maritime strategy, Tom Ricks is essentially admitting to me that he has never actually read the US Navy’s maritime strategy.
They go on to fret over comprehensive modifications of strategy and the question whether the Navy has the “right equipment” to address piracy. This is a boring and wasteful discussion, and Ricks’ counsel is just fine. The Navy has the right equipment in theater right now to address piracy. An Amphibious Landing Dock, Amphibious Assault Ships, and Marines with guns who want to kill people. Nothing else is necessary.
There have been other articles here and there questioning the need for the U.S. to address piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Again, boring discussions, one and all. Ships with weapons, ships with oil, and ships with other strategically important materiel were and are being taken hostage for huge sums of money, making Somalia a haven not only for pirates, but a wealthier place to boot, this largesse perhaps falling into hands that may later provide safe haven for Islamic militants.
Even if the pirates and militants do not currently get along, largesse flowing into a country without a government and under the control of warring factions cannot possibly be good for U.S. interests in the region. If the Marines, as soldiers of the sea, cannot tackle the issue of piracy, then we are surely lost in a strategic malaise with too many pedantic people saying too many wasteful words.
One more point is in order. The constant worry and hand-wringing over the legalities of counterpiracy operations and rules of engagement makes the Navy – and the law of the sea lawyers – and Information Dissemination – look weak and fragile. Is this a nice way of saying it?
The problem is easy to tackle, and Ralph Peters, Lt. Col. P and TCJ have weighed in before concerning the methodology. It involves killing pirates, dumping bodies overboard, and destroying their domiciles and enablers. The prose is not for shock effect. It’s serious, with recommendations that, if followed, would save lives and be a catalyst for safe seas. This is the best strategy of all. No need to retool ships, worry over strategic vision or call the lawyers. It’s best when problems driven to the simplest solutions.