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An Attack Hits Home

news blinnHope everyone is doing well. It’s been awhile since my last post; well a real long while!

This semester I am rooming with a Chinese exchange student from Shanghai Maritime University located in Shanghai China. There are a total of ten of these students living among the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) cadets, doing the same thing as the rest of us. It’s been busy trying to keep doing what they are suppose to be doing and making sure they get where they need to be. It has gotten a lot easier now that they are acclimated with not only how the Academy runs, but their English comprehension has gotten much better.

Next Spring MMA will send ten cadets, including myself, to their university to experience an education in China. We are trying to treat them with the same respect and with the same manners as we hope to receive from them. This experience has been keeping me from posting I apologize.

The recent pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama has thrust Mass Maritime into the spotlight. I am more than happy with the crew of the Alabama all coming home unharmed. Everyday since last Wednesday there has been numerous news stations running stories. Personally, I am impressed but not surprised by the actions of all the cadets. There has not been any incidents of cadets making fools of themselves just to be on TV. Also, the cadets who have been interviewed have represented the Academy community and the regiment of cadets well.

I represent the Academy when I say the actions of the crew and Captain Phillips were unselfish and courageous. The ability of the crew to regain control of the ship, something that seems to happen not that often is awesome. They never gave up and I feel like too many crews just fold over when the pirates board the vessel; admitting defeat is too easy.

The actions of Captain Phillips to trade his safety for the safety of his crew is something that any leader should be prepared to make, yet how many would? Selflessness is one of the traits of a leader that is drilled into every freshman’s head during orientation and too often leaders don’t act upon it. It doesn’t necessarily mean trading your life for your followers it means sacrificing something of your own to help those below you. With the help of the amazingly accurate Navy Seal Snipers, every crew member made it out alive.

I think its important to realize the significance of the MMA family. When word of the Alabama’s hijacking and that two Maritime graduates were on board came out, every member of the family reached out. If someone knew Captain Phillips or Captain Murphy personally they made it a point to contact their family and let them know they were thinking of them. There were groups of Facebook created, emails sent out, and calls being made conveying the news and offering support. These two guys are one our own, we walk the same halls as they did, sleep in the same dorms. It’s a connection that not many people feel for any reason never mind a hijacking. The cadets here are learning the same lessons these two men did 10 and 30 years ago.

I feel as though the Academy’s response to the incident was top-notch. They praised the Navy for their rescue and negotiation efforts, they praised the crew for fighting back and more importantly they made everyone watching the news realize that the people on the ship have names and faces that are a part of a family who is looking out for them. The administration did a good job emphasizing that the killing of the pirates doesn’t end the crisis that is still occurring off the east coast of Africa. Even today (Tuesday ) there were two ships hijacked. After looking at CNN it appears that another US flagged vessel, the Libtery Sun was attacked but pirates were unable to board. This is a global problem, trade routes are being disturbed and innocent seafarers are being put at risk. Something has to be done to solve the issue after the news crews leave our campus.

(Picture provided by Christiaan Conover,

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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Posted in Education + Youth.