A Ketch Named Mastico

A Ketch Named Mastico:

North Africa Maritime Security Operations

by Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Armstrong

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In May of 1801 the United States of America became involved in the nation's first overseas conflict when the administration of Thomas Jefferson formally refused tribute demanded by the Pasha of Tripoli to halt piracy on the Barbary Coast of Africa. Tripoli immediately declared war. For decades prior to the conflict American merchants struggled with the dangerous waters of the Mediterranean. The challenge posed by the Barbary pirates to American national and economic security was the very reason for the founding of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The First Barbary War was a naval war, based on maritime causes and fought by America's young sea services. However, it wasn't a traditional naval conflict made up of fleet or squadron engagements and decisive battles at sea. America's first maritime conflict was made of maritime interception, counter-piracy, and maritime security operations as well as the organization and leadership of an insurgent force. It was a conflict that 21st century sailors would recognize and identify with, both in terms of geography and missions assigned. It can be described as the 19th century predecessor of today's naval irregular warfare campaigns.

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LCDR Benjamin "BJ" Armstrong is an active duty Naval Aviator currently serving as Officer-In-Charge of an MH-60S Armed Helicopter Detachment. His unit is currently assigned to 6th Fleet providing search and rescue, special operations, and gunship support for contingency and maritime security operations off the coast of Libya. A frequent contributor to Small Wars Journal, he holds a Master's degree in military history from Norwich University and has published on naval irregular operations in a number of journals including USNI's Proceedings, Defense and Security Analysis, and American Diplomacy.

This article is a standalone expansion of his article "The Most Daring Act of the Age: Principles for Naval Irregular Warfare," published in the Autumn, 2010 issue of The Naval War College Review. The historical narrative serves as "prequel" to the NWCR article, describing the details of how the United States Navy's Mediterranean Squadron captured the Tripolitan ketch Mastico following the grounding and surrender of USS Philadelphia. The squadron's Maritime Security Operations reinforce the principles developed in the original article. Specifically, it illustrates the importance of having the right people, platforms, and partnerships for success in Naval Irregular Warfare.

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