By lex, on April 14th, 2009
It probably sounds trivial, but I wondered in an earlier post * about the meaning of the word “on scene commander” as used by 5th Fleet in relating the takedown of those Somali pirates. Broadly speaking, the captain of a Navy ship has military authority over everyone within his lifelines, but a cruiser CO would be wise to refrain from telling a SEAL platoon CO how to do his job.
Turns out my surmise was correct:**
As Sunday dragged on, the seas grew rougher, and Navy officers offered to tow the lifeboat behind the Bainbridge, telling the pirates that they would move them to calmer waters. Once the lifeboat was tethered to the destroyer, military officials said, the pirates grew more desperate, feeling they had lost control of both their boat and the situation. Also, the pirates were probably suffering from withdrawal from khat, a narcotic leaf chewed by many Somali men, according to a senior military official. Aboard the hot and cramped lifeboat, tensions escalated. Watching from the Bainbridge, the sniper team observed an apparent argument between Phillips and one of the pirates.
The SEAL team observed two of the pirates move away from Phillips and stick their heads out from a hatch. The third pirate raised his weapon at Phillips’ back. Convinced that Phillips was about to be shot, the SEAL commander gave the order to fire.
This takes nothing away from the crew of command of the Bainbridge. It just makes good sense.
After all, you probably wouldn’t want the SEAL team CO telling you when to stream your towed array, or how to fight the outer air battle, and “phoning home” for guidance when a fleeting opportunity presents itself is not a good idea.
But, apart from the precision required to take three kill shots from a moving platform to moving targets – at night – think about the discipline and patience it took to wait for that opportunity.
It’s just amazing.
*09-04-2018 Link added – Ed.
** 09-04-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.