By Pfc. Christopher A. BigelowJuly 19, 2010
SEATTLE -- Armed to the teeth and carrying swords, muskets, and even cannons, 30 men and women overtook a pier near Seattle's Alki beach late in the morning of July 10.
The men forced a crowd of bystanders - including innocent women and children - into violent bouts of laughter. The scurvy sea dogs were on a mission to pillage and plunder, seemingly out to destroy every drink in their paths.
The buccaneers' plans were to be loud, REALLY loud, using swashbuckling language from the 17th century and screaming obscure, off-the-wall threats at local passersby as they waited for their ship to arrive.
The men were on their annual mission to storm Alki Beach and kick off Seattle's Seafair celebration. And with the help of the 175th Transportation Company, a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Tacoma, Wash., nothing could stand in their way.
There were no sails, but the Landing Craft, Mechanized - known as a Mike boat - provided a stylish arrival for the rowdy band.
"We love this. If it warn't fer the Army, we couldn't do this ev'ry year," said Mike Knowlton, known as Captain Kidd XVI to the Seafair Pirates.
The 175th's soldiers have made a tradition of assisting the pirates with their beach-raiding shenanigans every year for as long as some of the troops can remember, said Sgt. Randy Ichiyama, the boat's coxswain and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the day's mission.
"This mission provides fun, good training for our soldiers, and it puts a good face on the Army and the military," Ichiyama said.
The Seafair Pirates' goal is to raise people's spirits and to kick off Seattle's summer festival. They visit nursing homes and hospitals, and during the height of Seafair, they appear at several events and parades each day.
But beneath their rough, tough, and gruff exteriors, the pirates have another reason for storming Seattle's shores every July.
"It's all about charity; we're here for the kids," Captain Kidd said.
This year the motley crew of scallywags and scoundrels added a new mate to their pirate band.
In an event coordinated with the local chapter of a Make-A-Wish Foundation, Joseph Rackham, a youngster from Ellensburg, Wash., was made an honorary Seafair pirate. During a ceremony on board the Lady Washington, a ship used in the hit movie Pirates of the Caribbean, he was knighted Captain Kidd, Jr., something that had never been done before.
"I was born a pirate," Happy Joe declared. "I just like how they live and make an adventure out of life."
Captain Kidd XVI had kind words for the Army boat crew that enabled the pirates to hit the beach in style.
"We greatly appreciate the support from the military," he said. "It's very cool. Without it, we couldn't do what we do at Seafair."
Bergstrom said the competition among his unit's soldiers to be part of the crew supporting the pirates was fierce.
"My men volunteer to go on missions like this," he said.
"It's very good training," Bergstrom said. "The soldiers get a great experience, not only with the pirates, but doing their job in the military picking up and delivering an asset."
"This event is the highlight of the year for our troops," he said. "It's fun and it feels good, helping the community, and seeing the people waving when we bring the pirates up to the beach," he added.
Pfc. Christopher A. Bigelow is a photojournalist assigned to the 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Seattle.