Guardian of the Week – LT David Ratner

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LT David Ratner during a 2008 boarding with Iraqi marines in the North Arabian Gulf.
LT David Ratner during a 2008 boarding with Iraqi marines in the North Arabian Gulf. Photo courtesy LT Ratner

On April 8, 2009 piracy off the Somali coast came to a boiling point as brigands took control of the Maersk Alabama and took captain Richard Phillips hostage.  As our nation and the world searched for answers a small contingency of Coast Guard forces leveraged the service’s unique capabilities as both a military and law enforcement organization.  Our Guardian of the Week led one of the Coast Guard teams there  fighting piracy.

LT David Ratner was the officer-in-charge of the Coast Guard law enforcement detachment aboard USS Gettysburg, which was part of the larger international Combined Task Force 151.

“Without the law enforcement expertise of our Coast Guard teams it would be really difficult to prosecute these piracy cases,” said LCDR Michael Fredie, executive officer of Tactical Law Enforcement Team South, the parent unit to Ratner’s LEDET.

Ratner led his team on 11 high-risk boardings in the Gulf of Aiden and he and his team directly stopped at least three pirate attacks on unarmed merchants protecting billions of dollars in cargo aboard the many ships that transit the area said Fredie.

Contraband, including RPGs and heavy machine guns, confiscated while responding to a pirate attack on the M/V Puma.
Contraband, including RPGs and heavy machine guns, confiscated while responding to a pirate attack on the M/V Puma. Photo courtesy TACLET South

In one instance, the team was notified of distress calls from the motor vessel Puma as it was under attack.  Ratner quickly devised and executed a surgical boarding of the hostile panga boat.

“They had RPGs and heavy machine guns onboard,” said Fredie.  “This was a seriously dangerous case.”

Ratner’s lightning quick maneuvers caught the pirates unaware and all eight were captured without incident.

“The best way to describe is he is constantly at the ready,” said Fredie.  “He had just returned from patrol in the Arabian Gulf and teaching Iraqi marines how to conduct boardings when he volunteered to deploy to CTF 151.”

These are intense deployments that require a great deal of preparation but when the mission called Ratner was ready to step up.  Now the operations officer at CGC Thetis, Ratner has brought his extensive law enforcement to bear there.

LT Ratner and his team board a pirate panga in the Gulf of Aden. Photo courtesy TACLET South
LT Ratner and his team board a pirate panga in the Gulf of Aden. Photo courtesy TACLET South

“Since reporting aboard, LT Ratner has continued to excel as one of the Coast Guard’s maritime law enforcement specialists,” said CDR Mike Nasitka, Thetis executive officer.  “He has shared a significant amount of his tactical law enforcement skills with the crew, greatly enhancing our unit’s ability to conduct law enforcement.”

LT Ratner’s story is a perfect example of how our small service can accomplish such large missions by empowering individuals.  In the end it is individual coasties like Ratner who make ours the greatest sea-going service.  Bravo Zulu shipmate!

Do you know a Coastie that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations for Guardian of the Week using the submit link on the right.

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