U.S. Navy sailors aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer took time to reflect on the anniversary of the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden seven years ago.
Phillips was rescued April 12, 2009 by special operations personnel aboard USS Bainbridge and transferred to Boxer for medical evaluation and care. Boxer also served as a staging platform for the rescue operation.
“This is a great reminder of the flexibility and warfighting spirit USS Boxer exhibits; always ready to respond, no matter the crisis, operation or mission,” said Capt. Mike Ruth, Boxer's commanding officer.
“The Capt. Phillips story displays the great teamwork across communities within the U.S. Navy as evidenced by our ships and special operations forces during this well-coordinated and executed rescue mission.”
Boxer was conducting routine operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations when the ship was tasked with the counter-piracy mission within the Maritime Security Patrol Area of the Gulf of Aden.
“Once Boxer entered the rescue operation for Capt. Phillips there was a noticeable sense of purpose in the demeanor of the entire crew,” said Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew Jackson, current member of Boxer Media division and a former member of the 2009 crew.
Combined Task Force 151, then commanded by Adm. Michelle Howard, embarked Boxer prior to the mission, and had command and control of all Navy assets in the area during the hostage situation.
Cmdr. Frank X. Castellano, former commander of Bainbridge, began negotiations with the suspected pirates, and ultimately gave the order to three Navy SEAL snipers to execute a synchronized shot to incapacitate Phillips' captors.
“I was excited to see the SEALs come on board and execute the mission of rescuing Capt. Phillips,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate Charles Ellis, who was aboard Boxer in 2009 and is currently the leading chief petty officer of the Crash and Salvage division.
“Watching the movie made me realize that I was actually a part of history.”
“Boxer played a critical role in Capt. Phillips rescue,” Jackson said. “The multipurpose functionality of amphibious assault ships extends potential mission capabilities beyond simply being a floating airport. The Boxer crew took a great deal of pride in being part of the operation.”
“It really put the Boxer out there on a level above and beyond other ships,” Ellis said. “The mission gave a great feeling of success to the American public, something more than just warfighting capabilities.”
Phillips' rescue mission demonstrated to the crew why Boxer is such a valued U.S. Naval asset.
“The medical department is huge, the vertical takeoff and landing ability of Harrier aircraft is a game changer, the deck department Sailors on amphibious ships are the best I've seen in seven deployments, and flexible mentality of the crew solidify that foundation,” Jackson said.
“The reason I came back to the gator Navy is because Boxer has shown me this ship can go anywhere and do anything.”