Pirate, Guns, & Warships

A great deal has happened in the past week and I have not
been posting.  I was going to go to a
coffee shop one afternoon and catch up on my writing, but then I got a nasty
cold and everyday after class this week I have retreated to bed with a cup of
tea and a liter of ginger ale.  I am (mostly)
recovered now and currently on a flight from Copenhagen to Amsterdam, which
will be my first trip outside of Denmark.
I figure before arriving in a new country I need to catch you up.  In theory I am only supposed to make one post
a day to maintain your interest, but we’ve past that point so there is going to
be an onslaught this weekend. 

Last Thursday, during core course week, my class left for a
three day trip through northern Denmark.
We met at the bus at 6:45 in the morning, which was brutal.  Then we drove an hour to a Danish Naval
base.  As we drove onto base one of my
professors exclaimed “There’s my ship!” I thought to myself how could he pick
the ship he served on out of the hundreds of vessels that the navy
operates.  Turns out the Danish navy has
five warships, yeah five.  Three of them
were at this base.  

We went inside the
complex where we were greeted by two colonels who operate the missions hunting
pirates in the Gulf of Aden near Somali.
They briefed us for a little over an hour on how they hunt and identity
the pirate ships, the procedure after they are apprehended, and the various
rules of engagement.  One of our
professors had spent time in Aden working as the legal consultant.  I wont bore you with the specifics of piracy,
but for me it was fascinating.  

(Confiscated pirate attack ship)

After the brief we were split up into groups and shown
stations containing various kinds of evidence.
The first was the forensic team, who showed us how to dust for prints,
and the different powders that are used on different surfaces.  They also showed us the gear they must wear
to keep the evidence sterile.  He also
explained how they must train their men to deal with the potentially gruesome
conditions on the pirate ships, while focusing on the task at hand.  The ships are often in disrepair with no
functioning sewage system, so members of the forensic team will become
physically ill while trying to collect evidence.  After that I got to fingerprint myself which
was totally cool.

The next station had all of the confiscated pirate weapons
and the weapons the Danish naval teams use.
There were AK47s, grenade launchers, and combat gear.  They were all real and it was a little eerie.  I had never handled the
weapons before, but I was surprised as my classmates picked up the guns I
was able to guide them through how they are aimed and fired.  It was knowledge I did not know I had.  

Give college students unloaded, perfectly
safe weapons and they are going to start playing with them.  Soon enough my peers were pretending shooting one another
and attacking imaginary pirates all in good fun.   It however sent a chill down my spine.  I withdrew myself to a corner of the room, where I
found a fellow classmate who was having the same reaction.  We talked it over a while and we were both
uncomfortable for the same reason: playing soldier with weapons that had taken
peoples lives somehow seemed wrong.

After show and tell we had some coffees with the men, before
heading to our next destination.  I was
impressed by their compassion and cultural awareness for their work.  They can have the pirates as prisoners aboard
their ships for weeks at a time and they said it is much easier if they have
civil relationships with the captives.
Many of the men are muslim so they are provided with a Quran and the
Danes carry compasses so they can tell them which way towards mecca.  They are also very diligent about keeping
records, so when the men arrive in court there is documentation of their humane
treatment.  I was reassured and impressed
by the practices kept onboard.  The on
our way out I noticed this picture on one of the doors.

Which roughly translates from Danish “Let them eat cake!”

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