Petraeus Visits Sailors, Awards Maersk Rescuers
By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer
Special to American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Jul. 27, 2009 The head of U.S. Central Command visited the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge while in port here today to thank sailors for their work while deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet, as well as for their role in the rescue of Richard Phillips, the Maersk Alabama cargo ship captain held captive by Somali pirates.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, addresses sailors aboard USS Bainbridge while the ship was in port in Manama, Bahrain, July 27, 2009. Petraeus thanked sailors for their hard work while deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet as well as their role in the successful rescue of Richard Phillips, the Maersk Alabama captain held captive by Somali pirates for five days in April. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus held an all-hands call with Bainbridge's sailors and presented awards to three sailors for rescuing Phillips after he was held by pirates for five days in April.
"The eyes of the world were upon you that Easter weekend," Petraeus said. "You played important roles and should be proud of what you did. In moments of danger and decision during the rescue of Captain Phillips, you did what you were trained to do. You remembered your skills. You did your duty. You stood your watch. And you brought Captain Phillips home alive."
Petraeus presented Senior Chief Joel Steinbach with the Meritorious Service Medal, and Petty Officers 2nd Class Matthew Olin and Joshua Waters with the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for their exemplary service during the rescue.
Steinbach served as the chief negotiator and liaison between the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group/Crisis Negotiation Unit and the pirates holding Phillips.
"I am honored to be recognized with this award and to receive it from General Petraeus," Steinbach said. "However, the credit for the rescue of Captain Phillips belongs to all the sailors who took part in the successful operation."
Olin and Waters led a boat crew in the covert recovery of U.S. Navy SEALs, served as coxswain as their boats approached the pirate lifeboat holding Phillips despite coming under hostile fire on the initial approach, and navigated their boats alongside the lifeboat to direct negotiations for the release and subsequent rescue of Phillips.
"I am proud that I was part of this mission and that I made a difference," Olin said. "I am proud of all the sailors involved who not only risked their lives, but brought honor upon our ship."
Bainbridge Commanding Officer Cmdr. Frank X. Castellano said it was an honor to host Petraeus. He praised his crew for their role in the rescue and counter-piracy operations.
"The success of Captain Phillips' rescue belongs not to a single commander or a team of SEALs," Castellano said. "Those few days belong to everyone involved -- officers and enlisted, not on one ship, but several – who diligently stood their watch. It belongs to the many."
(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer serves in U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.)