MANAMA, Bahrain — Approximately 200 servicemembers from various nations gathered at Naval Support Activity Bahrain for a remembrance ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of a suicide bombing in the Persian Gulf that killed two sailors and a Coast Guardsman.
On April 24th, 2004, a seven-member team from the USS Firebolt, a coastal patrol ship, was dispatched in an inflatable boat to clear multiple fishing dhows that were operating in a restricted area around an Iraqi oil terminal.
As the team approached one of the dhows, it abruptly maneuvered toward the Firebolt crew and blew up, according to a declassified Navy report detailing the incident, killing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Pernaselli; Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Watts and Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal. The others on the boat were badly injured.
Two other boats exploded 16 minutes later in the vicinity of another oil terminal, leading analysts to believe it was part of a coordinated terrorist attack on Iraq’s infrastructure, the report said.
U.S. 5th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. John Miller praised the crew of the USS Firebolt for thwarting the terrorist attack on Iraqi infrastructure and told sailors in attendance at the ceremony that they were the vanguard against current threats in the region.
“The potential threats to this infrastructure are as great today as they were in 2004,” Miller said.
The current crewmembers of the USS Firebolt, now based in Bahrain, were present at the ceremony, which included a re-dedication of a memorial.
“It’s great that we are here remembering our fallen brothers,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Peterson, a Firebolt crewmember. He said the Firebolt’s small crew is like a family.
“I couldn’t imagine losing some of my friends, family members and brothers like they did 10 years ago,” he said.
Another Firebolt sailor, Petty Officer 1st Class Jose Valencia, said the three who died 10 years ago are still a part of the crew. Crewmembers of the Firebolt see their names and pictures throughout the ship every day. “We live by their legacy,” he said
There are eight coastal patrol ships based in Bahrain where 5th Fleet is headquarted, including the USS Firebolt. Two more coastal patrol ships are expected to be based here this summer.