Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Late Join to the Piracy Blogosphere

It has been an intriquing, interesting, and amazing week and a half for the United States Navy...and I mostly missed it all! My family and I took a week of leave (no internet, email, or television - only a cell phone in case of an emergency), and I returned to a inbox, blogosphere, internet and television full of anti-piracy successes, concerns, and questions. First of all (and I know it's a little late), congratulations from the men and women of GONZALEZ to CDR Frank Castellano, the crew of USS BAINBRIDGE (DDG 96), and the embarked SEALS on safely and professionally executing their mission tasking. Well done! As a former "Billy-B" Sailor on USS BAINBRIDGE (CGN 25), I was particularly proud to see a ship with such a strong heritage in the news. I was also a little amused at some of the initial commentary (well more than a week old now) which suggested that the current BAINBRIDGE was an "old nuclear cruiser." Reminded me of a day back in 1992 when I was touring the American History Museum in Washington DC and a young boy pointed to a model of the nuclear cruiser BAINBRIDGE in her original designation as DLGN-25 and said to his father, "Dad, look at the model of this really old ship!" BAINBRIDGE was indeed some 30 years old at the time, and having overhead the conversation, I couldn't help but point out that "she wasn't that old and that I happened to live right there (pointing to the model) on the O-2 level aft." I always thought it was funny that my first ship in the Navy was actually on display as a model in a Smithsonian museum while she was still in commission. Anyway...

Naturally, as Commanding Officer of a ship which has previously been involved in an actual exchange of fire with pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2006 (although I was not in command), my family and friends were interested in my thoughts and opinions on the Navy's role in countering piracy. For my GONZALEZ family and friends and other readers of our blog, you know by now that I have never considered our blog as the appropriate forum while I am in command for my personal commentary on Navy missions. I will offer something for consideration though to put into perspective the tenacity, resiliency, and professionalism of GONZALEZ husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters and all Navy shipmates.

Consider the angst of the average sports fan who grimaces each time his or her favorite athlete strikes out, misses a putt, drops a ball, fumbles, misses a free throw, or doesn't achieve a specific standard, particularly when the pressure is on and a national/international audience is watching. Many professional athletes get paid millions of dollars for what they do. Some of them have been playing their particular sports since the time they started walking. They train, practice, and rehearse the same basic fundamentals of pitching, catching, putting, throwing, kicking, passing, etc., over and over and over again. At the end of the day, athletes play games for the competition and our entertainment. Now, I am a sports fan myself, and of course have my favorite professional athletes and teams, but consider this....Navy Sailors don't get paid millions of dollars for what they do and the average Sailor has only been doing his or her job for a very short time, usually just a few years. Many of the missions we are assigned, we have never specifically trained for or at a minimum have only limited training. Sometimes we only get one or no rehearsals. The broad, generalities of our training don't necessarily cover detailed specifics like working with FBI negotiators or picking up parachuting SEAL Team members or working with SEAL snipers. And as the recent piracy coverage validated, we always have a significant national/international audience watching and commenting, particularly if it goes wrong. These are often complex and challenging missions and the pressure of having lives on the line is very real. But we do these missions, and we do them with style and professionalism. Everyday. Many of them we do so we can continue enjoy the freedoms we do in our great country, like sitting on the armchair to watch our favorite sporting events.

A very welcome home to the Captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama, but let us not forget, BAINBRIDGE and her crew are still on station, still executing the missions to which they are assigned.

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