Southwest FL – Our March MOAS luncheon was a Joint luncheon with the Navy League of Sarasota-Manatee. Our featured speaker was Matthew Harper, a Retired U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer and the current Director of the State College of Florida’s 26 West Incubator, working with startup companies by providing mentors and assistance raising money from investors.
Matt, assigned to the USS Cole when it was attacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists in the port of Aden, Yemen on 12 October 2000, was involved with damage control to save the ship.
The lessons learned and crisis leadership was his presentation’s focus. As the USS Cole was a destroyer designed for battle at sea, an attack while tied up was something they had not prepared for, or anticipated. The attackers came alongside in a garbage scow picking up the ship’s garbage and detonated over 500 pounds of explosive hidden in its hull. The explosion was midships; 17 U.S. Navy sailors were killed and 37 injured.
Much of the blast entered a mechanical space below the ship’s galley, violently pushing up the deck and killing crew members lining up for lunch. The crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces and had the damage under control after three days. Several of the lessons learned involved using new equipment that couldn’t be adapted to the situation of pumping water out of the ship; and the damage control team decided to cut a hole in the side of the ship so they could get the water out.
The HMS Marlborough, a Royal Navy frigate on passage to the UK from the Persian Gulf was the first ship to assist. It had full medical and damage control teams on board, and she immediately diverted to Aden. Eleven of the most severely injured sailors were sent via French Air Force MEDEVAC to a French military hospital in Djibouti and underwent surgery before being sent to Germany. In a form of transport that was relatively new, the Cole was lifted and placed upon the Dutch semi-submersible heavy lift salvage ship MV Blue Marlin and sailed from Aden to Pascagoula, Mississippi, on 13 December 2000, where she was rebuilt.
MOAS is the Sarasota Chapter of Military Officers Association of America. MOAA is the nation’s largest and most influential association of military officers with 400,000 members. It is an independent, nonprofit, politically nonpartisan organization. For more information visit, www.sarasotamoaa.com Are you a former military officer? Please come and join us at our monthly luncheon.