Story by PO2 Brittney Cannady on 09/07/2017ABOARD USNS SPEARHEADThe Military Sealift Command (MSC) expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) is currently underway supporting the humanitarian mission Continuing Promise 2017 (CP-17).
This year marks the first time Spearhead is serving as the deploying platform for Continuing Promise. Chief Mate Adam Streeper, who as the first officer is responsible for cargo operations, training, safety and security matters aboard Spearhead, believes the ship is more than ready for the task.
"Of the 13 years I've been out to sea by far Spearhead is the most exciting and dynamic ship I've ever worked on. Things can get challenging, but the crew is very good at adapting and remaining focused to get the job done," said Streeper.
Spearhead provides military commanders intra-theater support with its high-speed sealift mobility, cargo handling capabilities and ability to achieve positional advantage over operational distances. Capable of holding 600 tons of cargo and conducting air operations, Spearhead can travel up to 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots when fully loaded.
The ship has directly assisted in the mission's 12,997 patient encounters by transporting the team of 169 service members and their cargo to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, and Trujillo, Honduras, while also making resupply stops in Key West, Fla., when CP-17 is operating in country.
The resupply visits also brought deliveries totaling $1.8 million in donated medical supplies from U.S.-based charities to the two Central American countries. By mission's end, the Spearhead will have transported approximately 3,260 tons of cargo in support of the mission.
The ship's 26 civil service mariners (CIVMARS) from MSC operate, navigate and maintain the ship. In addition to performing weekly shipboard drills and operations, the crew also conducts training (fire-fighting, abandon ship, etc.) alongside CP-17 military personnel to maintain ship's proficiencies. The Spearhead also supported U.S. Joint Task Force Bravo by conducting helicopter deck landing qualification training off Central America during a CP-17 resupply transit.
Force Health Protection Officer Chief Corpsman Andres Naranjo thinks Spearhead's unique capabilities also make it a valuable experience for Sailors deploying on the platform.
"One of the advantages of using Spearhead is the amount of medical equipment and materials that we can transport with people aboard in a relatively short amount of time," said Naranjo, who is assigned to Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla.
For Deck Cadet Kelly Flynn, a midshipman at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy assigned to Spearhead, the opportunity to work alongside both CIVMARS and military personnel is one of the most exciting aspects of CP-17.
"I think it's great that I can see two sides of the same coin by working on the bridge and in the mission bay with the cargo handlers and Seabees when they're loading equipment. It's a great experience being able to see what these guys do while learning about the humanitarian side of the mission and seeing everyone work together," said Flynn.
The Spearhead crew and Navy culinary specialists also worked together to keep the embarked military personnel fed and to date have served 9,674 meals.
"[When aboard] we help prepare every meal, and the [culinary specialist] team fully integrates with the CIVMARS. They take the lead, and we assist them," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class John Blake, CP-17's Leading Culinary Specialist. "In the beginning it took a while to get everyone fed with space being a limiting factor, but now we can feed close to 200 people in less than two hours, so it's been a good learning experience."
CP-17 is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian assistance, training engagements, and medical, dental, and veterinary support in an effort to show U.S. support and commitment to Central and South America.