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Military's Nerve Center At Sea

USS Mt. Whitney
This lonely ship on an empty sea has been transformed into the nerve center of the war on terrorism in the volatile Horn of Africa, reports CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey.

The USS Mt. Whitney is the most sophisticated command and control ship in the world. Its operation center connects the Marine general in charge of the task force with every arm of the U.S. counter-terrorism effort.

"If there's intelligence out there that we can't receive back on this ship, the next time we get ashore I will buy you a libation of your choice," says Major Gen. John Sattler, U.S. Marine Corps.

Home to nearly 1,000 sailors, soldiers, and marines, the Mt. Whitney oversees seven countries – friends like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, and Djibouti; as well as suspected Al-Qaeda hideouts, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.

The mission is straightforward: detect, disrupt, defeat and deny.

  • Detect: Find the terrorists.
  • Disrupt: Keep them off balance take away their safe havens.
  • Defeat: Bring them to justice or kill them.
  • Deny: Create conditions so they cannot return.

    Gunners on 24-hour duty around the ship watch for threats like terrorists in small boats. But the ship's best defense is its area of operation.

    "Normally, the ship operates far over the horizon, beyond the reach of anybody that we can imagine trying to do something to us," says the Mt. Whitney's commander, Capt. Dave Prothero,

    The war on terrorism is driven by intelligence and information. So measuring victory isn't as easy as in a conventional fight. In the case of this ship and its taskforce, when nothing is happening, chances are they are winning.

    "We will be in hot pursuit, we will be breathing down their neck and if they stumble, we'll bring them to justice," says Sattler. "If they sleep a little too early one night or a little too late one morning, we'll be there to make sure that we bring them to justice."