US troops honored for seizing 2M pounds of explosives in Middle East


More than 500 Marines, sailors and Coasties have received a meritorious Coast Guard team award for helping seize and secure a vessel containing more than 2 million pounds of bomb-making materials in the Gulf of Oman.

The Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation citation notes that the actions involved the first-ever delivery of a seized stateless vessel to Bahrain.

Actions by the maritime service members took place between Aug. 20, 2023, to Sept. 10, 2023, and involved Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and crews for landing ship dock Carter Hall, destroyer Stethem, and Coast Guard cutters Emlen Tunnell, Glen Harris and John Scheuerman.

The Maritime Security and Response Team-Detachment 1, under Commander Task Force 55, interdicted a “stateless vessel” with the “explosive precursor material.”

That seizure included 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines and the accompanying vessels, according to the award citation provided by the unit.

The award information was reported on Tuesday by

The award was issued on Nov. 9, 2023, and was referenced in an April 24 Marine Corps administrative message. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit shared the citation with Marine Corps Times on Wednesday.

The units escorted the seized vessel through the Gulf of Oman and delivered it to a Coast Guard “prize crew,” a group of Coasties selected to take over ship operations.

The crew then sailed the vessel from the Gulf of Oman to Bahrain, home of Naval Support Activity Bahrain. Coasties and a security detachment from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit executed a 17-hour “high-tension transit through the Strait of Hormuz,” according to the award citation.

After exiting the strait, the Emlen Tunnell crew served as one scene commander “during the 530 nautical miles escort through the Arabian Gulf resulting in the first ever delivery of a seized stateless vessel to Naval Base Bahrain,” according to the citation.

Task Force 56 members led the off-load and search of the vessel as Marines conducted security.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan approved the award for 192 Marines and sailors on the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and 342 sailors assigned to the Carter Hall.

The seized vessel predates the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks on Israel by the militant group Hamas, which triggered a flood of U.S. assets to the region, including ongoing work by the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit through the remainder of its deployment.

Though the Marine expeditionary unit spread its assets between Europe and the Middle East throughout its deployment, in June 2023 before attaching to the Navy’s Sixth Fleet, which covers Europe and Africa, the unit’s orders shifted to help the Navy’s Fifth Fleet respond to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy seizing commercial vessels near the Strait of Hormuz.

As elements of the Marine expeditionary unit participated in exercises in coastal regions above the Arctic Circle, the rest of the unit headed to U.S. Central Command, supporting operations Enduring Sentinel, Inherent Resolve and Prosperity Guardian, according to a fact sheet provided by the unit.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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