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Abandon Ship!

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PH2 (AW) Jonathan R. Kulp

The USS Guardian in Japan.

The Navy issued the toughest press release ever read by the skipper of the 224-foot-long USS Guardian on Thursday:

No one was hurt when the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) ran aground on Tubbataha Reef at 2:25 a.m. local time, Jan. 17, while transiting the Sulu Sea. The Avenger-Class ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, Olongapo City and was en route to her next port of call when the grounding occurred. The ship is currently stuck on the reef, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island. The crew is currently working to determine the best method of safely extracting the ship.

Until several hours later, that is:

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In order to ensure the safety of the crew, Sailors aboard the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) are being transferred to a support vessel…Initial efforts to free Guardian on high tide were not successful. As a precautionary measure, the 79 crewmembers are currently being transferred by small boat to the MV C-Champion, a Military Sealift Command chartered ship…A small complement of engineering and bridge personnel may remain aboard and work with a U.S. Navy team in an attempt to free Guardian with minimal environmental impact. The remaining Sailors will also be transferred if conditions become unsafe.

The latest word is that the entire crew has abandoned the vessel.

These are memories that stick, according to a posting on the Guardian’s Facebook page by a one-time lieutenant (j.g.):

As OOD [officer of the deck] on USS Prestige (MSO465) I had the honor to run us aground entering the Sea of Japan in 1958? It’s hard to remember the date but not the grounding. We lost her and the Court Martial proved I had done my job right. Google it and you’ll recognize the pictures which are similar to yours right now. Lt(jg) Jack Pruitt-age 78.

Good luck to the crew — and a toast to Lieutenant Pruitt.

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