Saturday, September 12, 2009

There's A Typewriter In Somalia!

***UPDATE - added comment at bottom****
Seriously! And they use it to type up fishing licenses. I'm not kidding.

So yesterday I was on a DOD Blogger's Roundtable concerning piracy & CTF-151. Thank goodness for affirmative action! They have to have a certain percentage of nonsense and that's how I get in!

DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable: U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Scott Sanders and Royal Navy Capt. Keith Blount

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Scott Sanders & his chief of staff, Capt. Keith Blount were aboard USS Anzio CG-68 in the waters off of Somalia. They discussed Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor (IRTC). They stressed the international cooperation needed to provide safe navigation through the GOA for commercial shipping.

There were eight bloggers on the call. Seven serious......and me. I was a good girl right up until the very end.

This is audio of the call.

After brief introductory statements from Admiral Sanders & Captain Blount - we were off and running!
First up, Daniel Sekulich of Modern Day Pirate Tales & Terror on the Seas. Daniel has also written a book about piracy, "Terror on the Seas: True Tales of Modern Day Pirates". His question was about combining the operations of CTF-151 with CTF-150 for a "more robust operation". Admiral Sanders explained some of the reasons why they can't be combined. It relates to the specific mandates and how they may effect the politics and governments of the partner countries. In other words, CTF-150 is related to the Coalition and some of the countries participating in CTF-151 may not be in favor of the mandate of CTF-150. And in turn, some of the anti-piracy actions that we (US & UK) wanted to undertake, couldn't be undertaken in CTF-150 and that's why we started it up.

Next was your truly asking about their view of reserve commands taking part in this mission. Do reserve commands out perform or under perform compared to their active duty counterparts? Admiral Sanders told us that he was from the reserve side and he found that he couldn't tell who was reserve and who was active. That at the end of day they were all Sailors and that not being able to tell was the biggest compliment he could give reserve components.

Following me was Andrew Lubin - He wanted to know what the current lull in pirate activities meant for the future. What was happening day to day. Captain Blount discussed how encouraging it is to see so many nations come together to work on this problem, echoing Admiral Sander's statement that "Piracy is an international problem which requires an international solution". The Captain also discussed the anti-piracy measures encouraged by the task force, i.e. fire hoses and razor wire.

Now - here comes the most astounding thing! Admiral Sanders is talking about their ability to board vessels and hopefully deter piracy. He said when you go aboard and you see "people, weapons, ladders and, you know, pirate paraphernalia"...."they have no legitimate fishing gear on board. They, ah, no fishing license."

Hello? Full stop! FISHING LICENSE???? ROFLMAO! A million images flash through my ADD addled mind - what I picture when I think of Somalia is the chaos depicted in "Black Hawk Down". I flash back to my reading for the Naval war College Joint Maritime Operations (JMO) course. Somalia was the "failed state" example. Then I pictured Mayberry and Opie & Andy with a voice over from that assclown, John Kerry. What? At the Town Hall in Mogadishu (Gesundheit!)??? I was dying for them to get to the follow up question part!

Following Andrew was Eagle1 of EagleSpeak. His post is up and you can read it here.
His question had to do with the importance of air power (helicopters and drones). Admiral Sanders said they were important but it was the coordination that mattered. That there was no single thing that turns the tide. Then he mentioned stopping a skiff with an RPG. I think that was the first time he mentioned really lethal weapons. It's not like we don't know about them, but was that aspect being downplayed? I mean, not to be a wiseass, firehoses are fine in certain situations, but do you really want to be holding the firehose in the RPG fight? The follow up question brought up the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction Meeting (SHADE). Very interesting, I'll be reading up on that!

Grim of Blackfive
Grim wanted to discuss AFRICOM , CENTCOM and NAVCENT Admiral Sanders talked about the people he networked with to cover the different aspects, jurisdictions. For example Rear Admiral Anthony M. Kurta, CJTF-HOA. Because of UN mandate they can go into Somalia's territorial waters.

David Axe of War is Boring
David wanted to talk about the different platforms involved. Again the answer was that no one platform makes the difference, it's the combination. Captain Blount said that "you need a pretty big gold bag of different size clubs".

Chuck Simmins of America's NorthShore Journal
Chuck requested a list of the nations participating in CTF-151. Hehe! I sent him an email of them as they were answering. I was pretty full of myself. Then his question had to do with Yemeni involvement. Captain Blount stated they had not seen any Yemeni pirate activity and that they were going to be meeting with the new Yemeni Coast Guard today.

Scott Wilson of Homefront in Focus, one of my favorite Sailors!
Scott asked how Somali pirates were finding their targets if we are controlling the IRTC. Admiral Sanders clarified that it's not just being in the IRTC that repels attacks, it's also following the recommended steps to repel attack. It's the combination of both that has been successful. You must take the proper counter-measures to give the military time to get to them.

Admiral Sanders jumped in to stress the enormous heroism of the merchant mariners in fighting off the attempted pirate boardings.

Then Galrahn, my good friend, of Information Dissemination.
Galrahn wanted to talk about the regional coast guards. Also, the Iranian navy is helping out. who knew! Captain Blount said they will pursue every possible avenue in working together with these regional players. But it is difficult to find the right opportunities to have a meaningful engagement with the Somalis. But they will try. After all, the goal is to have the regional players control piracy.

Time for follow-up questions, right? Wrong. apparently we have run late. Oh no! Jen asks that the Admiral and the Captain give their closing statements. The Captain wants to remind us that this is an important maritime mission and we should remember that piracy is often romanticized but they have seen the hurt and suffering the pirates do. He said that they are very proud of what they are achieving out there (Captain Blount - We are all proud of you and all the participants of CTF-151)

I can't help it. I have to know. I interrupt.
"Hey, I'm sorry to interrupt. But I gotta ask - where do you get a Somali fishing license and what does it look like?" (All my peeps on the line start laughing)

The Admiral is a little startled and after a moment laughs and assures me "I don't think you want to travel to where you have to get it." I ask "I mean do they hang it from the back of their ballcap like a hunter's license?"

The Admiral replies "No, it's a , um...there is one, I mean we get 'em all the time, I mean we don't get ' know we have ah....when people are out here we want to make sure they're fisherman. they do have them."

Then Captain Blount piped up with "I'll tell you what it looks like. It's on a piece of letter size paper. It's got a stamp in the top left hand corner. And it appears as if it's been typed with a typewriter. And it's got a signature at the bottom of it. And our Somali translator says it's as official as it's going to get. And there are some vessels that have them and there are some vessels that don't have them. But that's what a Somali fishing license looks like."

"That's the title of my blog post "There's a Typewriter in Somalia!" And so it is.

090905-N-6814F-016 GULF OF ADEN (Sept. 5, 2009) Royal Navy Capt. Keith Blount, chief of staff of Combined Task Force 151, addresses officers from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Harusame (DD 102) aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68). Anzio is the flagship for CTF 151, a multinational task force established to conduct counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian K. Fromal/Released)

So one of my Sailors left a comment regarding this post on my Facebook

"Epstein's Mother wrote it, to be sure. "Achmed and Salam have my permission to be fishing with RPG's on the boat, Epstein's Mother"


Stella by Starlight said...

Changing the subject...

       you r comments awed me. What a wit! Thank you so much for your kind comments about me.

At the risk of repeating myself, "There is no greater praise than praise from the praiseworthy."

Shipping News said...

In the case of Somalia, Al-Shabaab could be considered an "organization" with a deliberate policy of preventing civilians from leaving their territory. Al-Shabaab has a powerful incentive to prevent Somalis from voting with their feet: It would deprive the insurgency of valuable legitimacy if its population is slowly drained away.Maritime Security