A new book by Retired Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, who commanded U.S. naval forces (CTF-151) off Somalia during the Maersk Alabama standoff, reveals new details about how SEAL Team 6 helped rescue the ship’s captain Richard Phillips.
According to Danger Room, the book also reveals book also reveals new information about the vital role that a Somali interpreter played in the operation.
CTF-151′s destroyer USS Bainbridge was the first to respond to the maydays from Maersk Alabama, which bobbed near the pirates — and Phillips — in the stolen lifeboat, preventing it from escaping to land. The 9,200-ton Bainbridge had swapped its helicopters and pilots for a catapult-launched Boeing ScanEagle drone plus the robot’s operators. It also had a beefed-up intelligence team that included one of the Navy’s few, and prized, Somali interpreters. While technically part of CTF-151, the Bainbridge had her own unique missions. “I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that the mission had something to do with supporting U.S. Special Ops forces in Somalia,” McKnight writes.
According to McKnight, on April 10 six Team Six SEALs flew from Oceana, Virginia, direct to the Somalia coast. Their Air Force C-17 cargo plane refueled in the air no fewer than three times during the 16-hour flight. “SEALs are understandably concerned about stealth,” McKnight writes. “That tells me that the operation was planned so that they would parachute into the ocean under cover of darkness, probably a high-altitude low-opening jump so that the pirates weren’t alerted.”
McKnight cites the log book from the frigate USS Halyburton, recently arrived alongside Bainbridge. The log mentions six SEALs embarking the ship at 2:30 in the morning on April 11, then transferring via small boat to Bainbridge. McKnight says the SEALs brought their own sniper rifles, described elsewhere as .30-caliber SR-25s.