Navy Vice Admiral William E. Gortney ’77 speaks to media following rescue of cargo ship captain

Gortney, who is commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, spoke with reporters by phone on Sunday, April 12, following the dramatic rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips whose ship, the Maersk Alabama, was stormed last week by pirates 350 miles off Somalia.

Vice Adm. William Gortney. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

Gortney spoke with reporters during a Pentagon briefing from Navy Central Command in Bahrain. He said that Navy snipers fatally shot three of the four pirates who had held Phillips hostage in a lifeboat since April 8.

“While working through the negotiations process tonight, the on-scene commander from the (USS) Bainbridge made the decision that the captain’s life was in immediate danger, and the three pirates were killed,” Gortney said, according to CNN. “The pirate who surrendered earlier today is being treated humanely; his counterparts who continued to fight paid with their lives.”

Gortney graduated from Elon College in 1977 with a degree in history and political science. He entered the Navy as an aviation officer candidate, received his commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve in September 1977 and earned his wings of gold in December 1978.

According to a bio of Gortney on the Navy’s Web site, U.S. Naval Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces is Gortney’s third command tour in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, supporting maritime security and combat operations for operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Click on the link to the right to read the full Navy bio of Bill Gortney and to read his comments on CNN’s Web site.