Story by Grady Fontana on 05/30/2018Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships conducted a backload of all equipment that was previously offloaded to support exercise Balikatan (BK) 2018 at Subic Bay, Olongapo, Philippines, May 24-28.
Maritime prepositioning ship (MPS) USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011) and general purpose, heavy-lift vessel MV Ocean Jazz loaded about 620 items, which they previously delivered, over the span of four days after the Balikatan exercise officially concluded May 18.
"When our military is performing exercises with our partner nations, we are often focused on the kinetic aspect of the military-to-military engagement," said Capt. Robert R. Williams, commodore of MSC Far East. "It's easy to overlook the MSC contribution with our key partners. We provide on-time logistics, strategic sealift, as well as specialized missions to the warfighter.
The USNS Lummus is part of Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron Three (MPSRON 3), out of the Guam-Saipan area of the Western Pacific Ocean. The Lummus' mission is to strategically position Marine Corps equipment at sea, which can then be delivered to a specific location when called upon.
"It's nice to get around at an exercise like this," said civilian Captain David L. Hagner, USNS Lummus ship's master, who has been with the Lummus for more than 20 years. "I like exercising the mission capability of the ship. We often maintain the ship's cranes, ramp, and all the systems, and it's nice to put them through their rigors."
Aside from the conventional support that an MPS might provide, the ship is capable of supporting the military services in other, more unconventional ways.
According to Hagner, the Lummus established a re-fueling station during the offload and fueled vehicles as they exited the ship.
"We carry 36,000 barrels of fuel as part of the capability set of the ship;" said Hagner. "Usually the Marines keep the vehicles fueled to three-quarters full. So, they don't often come asking for fuel. But this time they did. So, as vehicles rolled off, we had a little gas station for them during the offload."
In addition to carrying equipment, the Lummus also embarked a contingency of Marines that were part of the Offload Preparation Party, and a civilian contracted crew that are responsible for the upkeep of all the prepositioned gear. These additional passengers depended on the ship for some life-support services.
"Even stuff like feedingfeeding a surge team," said Hagner. "That's a capability that we're supposed to possess and we like to show it off."
The Ocean Jazz is a time-chartered commercial container ship that is contracted by MSC for U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) to support the Army's transportation requirements.
Concurrent to BK 2018, the Ocean Jazz is also engaged in a mobility operation for USARPAC called Pacific Pathways 18-1, where the ship conducted a series of missions in various locations in the Pacific theater.
Pacific Pathways is an innovation that links a series of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM)-directed Security Cooperation exercises with partner militaries to a single MSC charter vessel on a single voyage plan that delivers U.S. Army equipment to support the various exercises.
The Pacific Pathways concept commits a designated task force and their force package equipment to the entire duration of a pathway.
Both ships arrived the Philippines late April and conducted an offload between April 26 through May 1 in preparation for the official start of BK 2018, which kicked off with an opening ceremony May 7.
This year's BK Exercises is the 34th iteration of the exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the USPACOM.
About 5,000 Marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors from the AFP participated in BK 2018 with 3,000 from US forces composed of U.S. Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Forces.
The Ocean Jazz is a member of the Maritime Security Program, a listing of American-flag ships that are assets the U.S. military can draw upon during contingencies.
MPSRON 3, operating in the western Pacific, maintains tactical control of the 16 ships carrying afloat prepositioned U.S. military cargo for the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Air Force. The squadron's mission is to enable force from the sea by providing swift and effective transportation of vital equipment and supplies for designated operations.
MSC operates approximately 115 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.