PHARSALIA – While the world was watching with rapt attention during the recent standoff between a U.S. Navy warship and Somali pirates off the East African coast, one local man had a front row seat.
Stationed aboard the USS Bainbridge, Seaman Eric Brown witnessed the events unfold first hand. The 20 year old Pharsalia-native, who graduated from Otselic Valley High School in 2006, serves as a sonar operator on the guided missile destroyer; which is part of a multi-national maritime force tasked with safeguarding international shipping in and around the Gulf of Aden.
According to Brown, the USS Bainbridge had only recently arrived in the region when pirates attempted to hijack the Maersk Alabama on April 8, approximately 350 miles off the Somali coast. The incident resulted in the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, being taken hostage. The U.S. Naval vessel arrived on the scene less than 24 hours later.
For four days, Phillips was held captive aboard a lifeboat while U.S. forces attempted to negotiate his release.
“Everyone was exhausted,” Brown said, describing the tension felt by those on board the destroyer while they sat waiting for something to happen.