Mission Essential Recalls Its Pivotal Role In The Alabama Hijacking, As Seen In “Captain Phillips”

COLUMBUS, OH – Because of the confidential nature of their work, Mission Essential’s quiet heroes are never mentioned in the headlines. So it is with enthusiasm that the company celebrates the release of the movie, “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks, which depicts the 2009 hijacking of the merchant vessel Maersk Alabama and subsequent rescue of its crew by the US Navy. The Navy’s sole communications conduit with the pirates during the four-day standoff was a Mission Essential linguist, who voluntarily put his life in danger to continue interpreting during the extended negotiations.


Promotional photo from “Captain Phillips”

“Our linguist served alongside the Navy Special Operations Forces (SOF) rescue team, accompanying them on trips to the Maersk Alabama in a support craft,” said Paul Clemens, Mission Essential’s senior vice president for operations and a 20 year Army intelligence veteran. “He demonstrated incredible composure and won the pirates’ trust using his knowledge of the Somali culture, bravely choosing not to wear protective gear so the pirates would view him more favorably. Even when gunfire broke out, he stood his ground and continued the mission to support the SOF team.”

Tom Hanks

Mission Essential linguist (played by Omar Berdouni) negotiates for Capt. Phillips’ release.

“The film only briefly touched on the heroic and crucial role our linguist played, but it’s no stretch to say the mission could not have been completed without him,” Clemens continued. “This is the case for most of the quiet heroes Mission Essential deploys. Our job is not to steal the spotlight but to lead from behind, which we’ve done every day for almost 10 years now.”


For nearly a decade, Mission Essential has served customers at the strategic and tactical levels, providing operational solutions to the US Departments of Defense, State, and Homeland Security, as well as the Intelligence Community, friendly foreign governments, and multinational corporations. Our 8,000 professionals worldwide help customers navigate the uncertainty presented by terrorism, transnational crime, cyber-security threats, natural disasters, and other hazards to national and global security.