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Iranian Fishing Boat Rescue: Firsthand Account

Forces assigned to the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, rescued an Iranian fishing vessel from pirates in the northern Arabian Sea, Jan. 5. The Strike Group consists of: USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), USS Antietam (CG 54), Destroyer Squadron Twenty One, USS Pinckney (DDG 91), USS Kidd (DDG 100), USS Dewey (DDG 105), USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), USS Milius (DDG 69), Carrier Air Wing Nine, VFA-14, VFA-41, VFA-97, VAW-112, VAQ-133, VFA-192, HSC-8, HSM-71 and VRC-30. The following is from Rear Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the Strike Group.


There is no such thing as “routine” in the U.S. Navy, especially when forward deployed conducting the full range of operations required of a Carrier Strike Group.  The morning of January 5th started out like many others.  USS John C. Stennis and USS Mobile Bay were taking on fuel and stores during a replenishment at sea (RAS) with USNS Rainier. Preparations were being made for launching combat missions into Afghanistan.  Training and qualifications were occurring at all levels. Close attention was being paid to maintaining the maritime picture across the battlespace. Many missions, focused Sailors — “Business as usual.”

The importance of being ready for the unexpected was quickly demonstrated when both the John C. Stennis and Mobile Bay heard a distress call on bridge to bridge radio from the motor vessel Sunshine, a bulk cargo carrier en route to Iran.  Sunshine stated they were being pirated. The John C. Stennis Strike Group immediately responded and 24 hours later 13 Iranian fisherman were freed by the USS Kidd as 15 pirates were taken into custody. The story is well documented…

Talented and well trained Sailors operating from combat ready, multi-mission ships and aircraft were the difference makers.

Talented people:  When English and Arabic bridge to bridge hails from Kidd failed to sort out the situation aboard the pirated fishing vessel Al Mulahi, the CO of USS Kidd, Commander Jen Ellinger, and her team cleverly thought to try other languages.  Chief Petty Officer Jagdeep Sidhu, a gas turbine electrician Chief from India who speaks Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi was able to communicate to the Captain of the pirated vessel in Urdu which the pirates did not understand, this tipped the Kidd that that the crew was being held hostage. Other languages spoken by Kidd’s crew include Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Cambodian, Thai, Spanish and Chinese to name some.  All these talented individuals compete for the opportunity to enlist or earn a commission in our Navy. This diverse talent helped free the hostages and contributed to mission success.

World class training:  Rigorous training paid off as Mobile Bay deployed a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) Team to investigate the pirate skiff. This was the first operational use of the Mobile Bay team during the ship’s seven month deployment.  Afloat Training Group’s thorough certification process, combined with the ship’s aggressive proficiency training during deployment prepared the team well.  You only get one chance to make a difference – Navy’s world class training program worked to ensure mission success as a piracy attempt was thwarted and hostages freed.

Flexible – Multi-mission ships and aircraft:  Forward presence – being on station – allows us to understand the operating environment and respond when needed.  We must be forward to provide the Nation responsive offshore options.  Simultaneously conducting logistics operations, executing Operation Enduring Freedom and responding to a pirate attack is an example of the flexibility and versatility of a Carrier Strike Group.  We are multi-mission and multi dimensional – our talented people, rigorous training and topnotch ships and aircraft reflected this in the swift and successful response of 5-6 January.

This mission success is an example of the great things America’s Navy does everyday to ensuring freedom of the sea and the unimpeded flow of global commerce.

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