By; Marine Seaman Michael E. Turner II
It was a calm Saturday morning on the open sea for a crew of Marines. So calm, the surface… of the Atlantic Ocean served as a perfect undisturbed reflection of the cloudy blue skies that day. Flocks of seagulls were cruising. Everything was at peace.
Little did these Marines know, this peace would be short-lived. This peaceful beginning was merely the calm before a horrific storm that would rain gunfire from above and thunderous explosions from beneath. Shrieks from metal grinding on metal seemed to be the ship’s own attempt to cry out in confusion. No one was able to offer an answer to what was about to transpire that eventful day. Where did the jets come from? Why did they open fire? But most importantly, how will they survive?
On this fateful day, while carrying out a routine patrol of its country’s borders, HMBS Flamingo spotted two foreign vessels fishing in their waters. The nineteen member crew prepared for what was about to be a routine poaching encounter. They had carried out countless board and search procedures, arresting many poachers, narcotics and arms smugglers and detaining illegal immigrants before. The men were prepared to board and search the two foreign vessels, a task well within their duties. However, the crews of the two foreign vessels had other plans that did not include being arrested.
After procedural attempts to stop and board the vessels had failed, the HMBS Flamingo fired warning shots. The poachers took off and a high speed chase on the open waters ensued. This board and search evolution had now become anything but routine.
Now in hot pursuit, the HMBS Flamingo again beckoned the vessels to stop over the loud hailer. Radio communication was also ignored by the fleeing poachers. Hence, HMBS Flamingo was forced to shoot out one of the vessels’ engines in an effort to bring the chase to an end and the offenders to justice. It was at that moment that the crew of HMBS Flamingo looked up into the blue sky and noticed something. There were jets, but not just regular jets flying by. They were military MiG fighter jets zooming overhead.
The commanding officer of HMBS Flamingo, Lieutenant Commander Amos Rolle – still focused on the task at hand – deployed the sea boat as other members of his crew prepared to secure the fishing vessels in tow. The sea boat operator launched the sea boat, along with the boarding officer, Sub-Lieutenant Anthony Allens, and his team armed with their weapons and made their way to the captured vessels. They boarded them, confirmed their suspicions and detained the foreign fishermen with their large pelagic fisheries loot.
Meanwhile, the jets continued to linger in the area. The ship’s company were accustomed to foreign military jets flying by on occasion while on patrol. However, jets flying at this altitude was a bit bizarre. The jets circled around yet again but this time, gliding over so low, that one of the
junior marines was certain he locked eyes with the pilot. It was at that moment that the Commanding Officer had a hunch that they had to get out of there and fast!
The adrenaline from the chase kicked in for every member of the crew as they felt something afoot. With members of the already small crew dispersed among the 3 vessels and no time to devise any immediate plan, the storm began to brew. But this was no regular storm.
Then disaster struck! The sound of machine guns echoed through the air with a monotonous stutter, as if suffering from a speech impediment. This stuttering did nothing but send an extremely clear message, however. The bow of the military vessel was hit repeatedly by gun fire from the jets, creating gaping holes in the superstructure. Having received no courtesy warning shots, every crew member was probably wondering at this point, why were the jets opening fire and why were they under direct attack? (Read on for Part II…Story continues)