|Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14) conducts a replenishment-at-sea |
with Royal Australian frigate HMAS Toowomba (FFG 156).
(U.S. Navy photo by Master Capt. Rollin J. Bellfi/Released)
To get a better idea of the variety and importance of this force, allow me to highlight three ongoing missions, in three different theaters, using three completely different platforms. In the far reaches of the southern Indian Ocean, a handful of international ships continue a wide-ranging search for any trace of missing Malaysia Air flight 370. Keeping these ships moving and fed is USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14). This sort of underway replenishment combat logistics mission is MSC's bread and butter, with dozens of similar operations occurring around the globe every day and night.
In the Mediterranean, another MSC ship is deployed for a unique and historical mission – to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons. MV Cape Ray, part of the Transportation Department Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force, departed Portsmouth in late January. The ship has spent most of its deployment pier-side in Rota while Syria stalls in fulfilling its UN-mandated obligations to aggregate the stockpiles at Latakia for transport and neutralization at sea. Whether or not the ship will ever get to execute its intended mission remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the fact that this operation was able to spin up so quickly and embark the U.S. Army’s chemical neutralization equipment demonstrates the agility of our heavy sealift ships.
At this point, I should brag on my fellow citizen Sailors. Two of the missions I've mentioned couldn't happen without the dedication of Navy Reservists on extended active duty. While the ships themselves are operated by the MSC's civil mariners, reservists make up a significant portion of the mission teams aboard Cape Ray and Spearhead, to include some key leadership positions. Reservists are also part of USS Ponce's mission in the Arabian Gulf. Naval operations are often come-as-you-are affairs, and there are no better folks at rapidly and seamlessly partnering with the MSC for operational pick-up games than our reserve Sailors.
When considering long term budgets and acquisition plans, our capital combat ships are extremely important. But the flexibility and strategic reach of our military sealift force is what makes us a global naval power. The above ships represent just a small part of the MSC's inventory. Other vessels are prepositioned around the world to support major contingency operations. Still others support salvage, submarine rescue, or special operations missions. Time after time, MSC has demonstrated the ability to get equipment to the fight and sustain our warfighters.
Any opinions expressed in the preceding post are those of the author alone and not representative of the U.S. Navy or any other organization.