Coast Guard, Navy Apprehend Pirates

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Miami-based U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment operating as part of Combined Task Force 151 in the Gulf of Aden assisted in the apprehension of 16 suspected pirates in a 24 hour period.

The eight-person LEDET 405 team is conducting counter-piracy operations aboard USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and USS Mahan (DDG 72) as part of a multinational task force in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

"Our role is to augment and train U.S. Navy visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams," said Lt.j.g. Greg Ponzi, officer in charge of LEDET 405.  "The LEDET has years of boarding experience and has safely completed hundreds of vessel boardings collectively."

On Feb. 11, a Vella Gulf VBSS team conducted a boarding of a suspected pirate skiff and found several weapons. The seven suspected pirates were brought aboard Vella Gulf, where they were processed and then transferred to a temporary holding facility on board the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE-1).

On Feb. 12, nine additional suspected pirates were apprehended after VBSS teams from Vella Gulf and Mahan boarded a vessel that contained assorted weapons and one rocket propelled grenade launcher.  Those suspected pirates were also transferred to a temporary holding facility on board Lewis and Clark.  They will remain aboard Lewis and Clark until information and evidence is assembled and evaluated and a decision is made regarding their further transfer.

In both events, the VBSS teams were comprised of Coast Guardsmen and Sailors and marks the first time CTF-151 has apprehended suspected pirates.

"Piracy needs to be suppressed," said Rear Adm. Tom Atkin, commander of the Deployable Operations Group, whose command provides LEDETs and other specialized capabilities to meet a variety of missions in support of U.S. interests.  "Our Coast Guard LEDET and Navy team along with international cooperation can make it happen."

"This is a law enforcement operation to deter piracy and make the waters safe for all nations," added Ponzi.

The DOG's purpose is to develop systems and processes for standardized training, equipment, organization, planning, and scheduling of rapidly deployable specialized forces to execute mission objectives in support of tactical and operational commanders. The DOG enhances the Coast Guard's capability to respond to maritime disaster and national threats and is responsible for the coordination and execution of the following force package deployments: Maritime Safety and Security Teams, Maritime Security Response Team, Port Security Units, Tactical Law Enforcement Teams, and National Strike Force Teams.

Vella Gulf is the flagship for CTF 151, which is a multinational task force that conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

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