ABOARD USS PELELIU (LHA 5) --
Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, deployed aboard USS Peleliu (LHA 5) in the Gulf of Aden, helped prevent a pirate attack August 8, providing aerial support and Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
At 7 a.m. the crew of USS Peleliu received a distress call from the Singaporean cargo ship Gem of Kilakarai reporting being attacked by two small pirate vessels about 10-miles away from USS Peleliu’s position. After receiving the reports, USS Peleliu changed course and launched three helicopters to provide security for the civilian cargo ship and to run off the pirates.
“The mission showcased the Marine Corps-Navy team's ability to react to a no notice, real-world contingency and execute a successful mission profile within a compressed timeline” said Lt. Col. Pete C. Farnum, 15th MEU Operations Officer.
During the incident, the pirates fired on the Gem of Kilakarai with small-arms and rifle launched grenades. The pirates disengaged their attack upon intervention from USS Peleliu and 15th MEU helicopters. A rifle launched grenade used during the attack failed to detonate and was lodged on the bridge wing of the Gem of Kilakarai. There were no reports of injury during the attack.
Aerial reconnaissance and security flights of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-165 (REIN) helicopters over the Gem of Kilakarai helped determine the need for further assistance from the Marines aboard USS Peleliu. After assessing the best course of action, EOD Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion-15 and a security detachment with Golf Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/5, were flown by two UH-1N Huey helicopters aboard the Gem of Kilakarai to remove the threat.
After assessing the threat on board the Gem of Kilakarai, the unexploded grenade was properly disposed of by the EOD team from CLB-15.
“All elements of the [Marine Air Ground Task Force] were utilized as they were designed. The MEU developed the plan utilizing real-time intelligence and photographic imagery from the Combat Camera Marines which validated the suitability of aircraft operations,” said Farnum. “[HMM-165 (REIN)] prepared the aircraft and flew the mission profile; [BLT 2/5] provided security and were prepared to respond to any contingency; and [CLB-15] provided the EOD expertise, which ultimately ensured that the unexploded ordnance was safely and expeditiously disposed of.”
The quick response of USS Peleliu and the 15th MEU garnered praise from the Bahrain based 5th Fleet for their quick, precise and decisive actions in preventing the pirate attack. The incident further highlighted the operational capabilities of the 15th MEU as a forward deployed, quick-response unit, according to Sgt. Michael C. Brandon, Squad Leader, Golf Company, BLT 2/5.
The Marines on the deck of the Gem of the Kilakarai credit their readiness prior to the incident. The limited amount of planning time didn’t hinder a successful operation, Brandon said.
“We’re always ready, our gear is always ready, and so, if a mission is called down,” Brandon said.
The planning and intelligence gathering operations also aided the Marines who boarded the Gem of Kilakarai, according to Brandon.
“The planning process is very important. Being briefed before-hand and knowing as much as possible about the situation before launching helped out tremendously,” Brandon said.
The Gem of Kilakarai, which was transiting the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal, presented a unique challenge to the EOD team aboard the Peleliu, according to Gunnery Sgt. Hiram P. Weisinger, EOD Team Leader, CLB-15.
“This was the first time I’ve ever done anything like flying to a ship to dispose of ordnance,” said Weisinger.
The mission also highlighted the readiness of the Marines of the 15th MEU to conduct any mission, Weisinger added.
“In a quick and concise manner, the Marine Corps-Navy team was able to develop and execute a tailored and well coordinated plan that translated into mission success,” Farnum said.