Written by Lt. James McLay, Deployable Operations Group
Piracy has been the scourge of the world’s oceans and waterways ever since man took to sea. Defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as any “…illegal acts of violence, detention or any act or depredation aimed against a ship, its crew, or its manifest for private ends,” acts of piracy have continued virtually unabated throughout history.
The last three years have seen the global threat of piracy to both U.S. and foreign flagged merchant vessels skyrocket. This is especially true in the Horn of Africa/Gulf of Aden (HOA/GOA) region, where rampant poverty and lack of a stable government in Somalia fuel the piracy epidemic. According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirates worldwide hijacked 53 ships, captured 1,181 seafarers, killed eight people and caused countless millions of dollars in economic impact in 2010 alone.
Enter Command Task Force (CTF) 151 and this week’s Shipmate of the Week – Lt. Aaron Renschler.
CTF 151 is a multi-national task force established in January 2009 to conduct counter piracy operations in the HOA/GOA region to protect global maritime security and ensure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations. Coast Guard elements of the Deployable Operations Group – including members from Tactical Law Enforcement and Maritime Safety and Security Teams, have been supporting CTF 151 operations since inception, providing critical maritime law enforcement expertise in interdiction, high-threat boarding tactics and case package preparation.
Over a five-month deployment as Officer-in-Charge of Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 406 aboard USS San Jacinto and USS Farragut, Renschler led his team on seven high-risk boardings of suspected Somali pirate vessels. His team’s efforts successfully thwarted five separate pirate attacks from interrupting the safe passage of unarmed merchant vessels and played a central role in the detention of fifty suspected pirates, the seizure of a large weapons cache and explosives and the liberation five Yemeni hostages.
“The threat piracy poses to the maritime security of all nations is very real,” said Renschler. “I was fortunate to be put in a position to make a difference in the Gulf of Aden and I’m proud of what my team was able to accomplish.”
Renschler’s leadership and commitment to excellence were recently recognized when he was awarded the National Defense Industrial Association Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict award before a crowd of nearly 600 guests, including many special operations soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
“When [Renschler’s] citation was read, those in the audience and onstage took new notice of who we are and what we do in the service of our nation,” said Cmdr. Tim Espinoza, Commanding Officer of Tactical Law Enforcement Team South. “I can honestly report, the team’s accomplishments are on par with the very best our nation has to offer.”
It is fitting that this week we salute Renschler, LEDET 406 and all Coast Guard men and women assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, whose operational excellence and logistics support make this mission possible. Their collective efforts, sometimes at great sacrifice and without much fanfare or publicity, are helping to crush the global threat of piracy and ensure our high seas are a safe place in which to operate.
Do you know a Shipmate that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.