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U.S. Sailors Assist Stranded Iranian Mariners

By Lt. j.g. Jason Gutierrez, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

ABOARD USS GONZALEZ, March 1, 2006 – Sailors from the guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez, currently deployed to the Arabian Gulf, rescued six Iranian mariners yesterday after they had been adrift for 10 days.

Gonzalez's bridge team first spotted the crippled dhow while conducting maritime security operations in the Central Arabian Gulf. Once the destroyer's watchstanders identified the distressed vessel, the ship immediately changed its course to render assistance, officials said. The Iranians explained that their dhow's engine and rudder failed Feb. 18.

"Patrolling warships are sometimes called on for humanitarian interventions," Cmdr. Robert D. Randall, the ship's commanding officer, said.

Combined Forces Maritime Component assets, like Gonzalez, are flexible enough to continue the maritime security mission while providing assistance to mariners in distress, officials said. Naval assets conducting coalition maritime security operations have a longstanding tradition of providing medical assistance, engineering assistance, and search and rescue.

Gonzalez's boarding party gave the Iranian crewmembers food and water, as they had exhausted their supplies during the 10 days adrift. In addition, the U.S. sailors inspected the dhow's engineering plant and determined the engine was beyond repair. Gonzalez then coordinated the mariners' repatriation with other coalition members conducting operations in the area and Iranian authorities. "It felt good to assist," Randall said.

The crew of the Norfolk, Va.-based warship deployed to the Middle East as part of the sea swap program in February to conduct maritime security operations and support Operation Enduring Freedom. Maritime security operations help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations, officials said. Such operations deny the illegal use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

(Navy Lt. j.g. Jason Gutierrez is assigned to USS Gonzalez.)

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