USNS 1st LT John P. Bobo, USNS Pililaau Depart Port of Pohang

USNS 1st LT John P. Bobo, USNS Pililaau Depart Port of Pohang

Navy Maritime Prepositioning Force ships USNS 1st LT John P. Bobo (T-AK 3008) and USNS Pililaau (T-AK 304) departed the port of Pohang, Republic of Korea, May 8.

The departure marked the conclusion of a month-long deployment in support of the Combined Joint Logistics Over the Shore (CJLOTS) exercise held jointly with forces from the Republic of Korea.

As part of the larger Foal Eagle 2013 exercise, CJLOTS involved 2,200 Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Coast Guard personnel and partners from the ROK military, who trained to deliver and redeploy military cargo from ships anchored two miles off Pohang’s Dogu beach.

“We experienced solid coordination from all participants culminating in a successful and safe offload and backload of hundreds of Marine Corps principal end items,” said Navy Capt. Richard Rainer, commander of Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron (COMPSRON) 3.

Owned by Military Sealift Command and operated by commercially-contracted merchant mariners, Bobo and Pililaau served as supporting platforms for cargo-handling Battalion One Sailors and Marines from Okinawa-based III Marine Expeditionary Force who safely loaded and backload the vessels.

Offshore petroleum distribution system ship MV Vice
Adm. K.R. Wheeler (T-AG 5001), also participated in this year’s exercise as the only ship of its kind in either military or commercial use. During CJLOTS, Wheeler tested its primary mission to deliver fuel to deployed troops ashore in the event of a contingency operation.

More than 50 Reservists from five MSC Expeditionary Port Units joined Sailors from the Strategic Sealift Officer Program and permanent staff members from MSC Office Korea, providing support to the ships throughout the exercise. MSC Reserve Sailors also staffed the exercise Joint Operation Center working side-by-side with ROK military personnel.

“Ultimately, our units are here for the ships,” said Lt. Jason Rooney of Little Rock, Ark.,-based EPU 112 deployed to the port for the exercise. “We make sure they get everything they need to support the mission.”

The Improved Navy Lighterage System, stowed aboard both MPF ships, was used throughout the exercise as hundreds of vehicles and containerized cargo holding everything from meals-ready-to-eat to medical supplies, were delivered ashore.

The INLS is comprised of a roll-on/roll-off discharge facility, or RRDF, a large floating platform the size of two U.S. regulation basketball courts, used to stage cargo, and mechanized watercraft used to deliver cargo to shore.

“We experienced real-world challenges of moving equipment from ships to shore which prepares us all for the day, if, possibly, this might not be a drill,” said COMPSRON Three operations officer Navy Lt. Emmitt Dempsey.

The final phase of CJLOTS included the reconstitution of cargo and the INLS back aboard both ships.

Bobo, Pililaau and Wheeler are all part of MSC’s MPS Squadron Three based principally in Guam and Saipan. These ships deliver military cargo ashore even if a port is damaged, destroyed or doesn’t exist at all.

MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, U.S. merchant mariner-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.

Press Release, May 10, 2013; Image: US Navy