USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2) sits anchored off shore of Kiribati during the most recent Koa Moana, June 19. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Madailein Abbott)

NOUMEA, New Caledonia -Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2) arrived in New Caledonia June 25 in support of Koa Moana 17 (Ocean Warrior).

The Koa Moana exercise series seeks to enhance senior military leader engagements between allied and partner nations with a collective interest in military-to-military relations and to discuss key aspects of military operations, capability development, and interoperability.

From June-September 2017 U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine regiment, 1st Marine Division, stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif. and Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, from Marine Corps Base Hawaii have embarked aboard the USNS Sacagawea to participate in Koa Moana 17 events in Kiribati, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Working alongside these partner nations, the Marines also work alongside the crew of the USNS Sacagawea, attending shipboard training, drills, and sharing workload duties during their time onboard.

MSC contracted civilian mariners assigned to the USNS Sacagawea such as able-bodied seaman and deck hands operate ship elevators and cranes, which assist greatly in the movement of U.S. Marine equipment used specifically for this exercise. The involvement of the USNS element in exercises like Koa Moana is vital to the Department of Defense and the continued support of operations in the South Pacific.

“The ship can hold up to 197 crew and passengers total, as well as having cargo hold space, which can hold food and supplies for up to six months at a time,” said Captain Robert Sylvester, Master of USNS Sacagawea. “We are the only ship involved in this exercise in the entire South Pacific. Our primary focus for Koa Moana 17 is supporting the Marines in getting them and their equipment where they need to be, when they need to be there. With our ship’s capabilities, we’re the perfect one for the job.”

The USNS Sacagawea is a Dry Cargo/Ammunition Ship, which provides ammunition, food, repair parts, stores and small quantities of fuel for the U.S. Marine Corps as well as other military service branches. The ship can also be tasked to respond in a disaster in the form of providing equipment and supplies to a target area.

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 U.S. forces and coalition partners.

“There’s always an exercise or a mission going on whether it be Cobra Gold, Rimpac, or Koa Moana and the MSC ships are always there and ready to support," said Sylvester. "I think we will be an integral part of these exercises for many years to come.”

Once the phase of the exercise has been completed in New Caledonia, the embarked U.S. Marines and Sacagawea crew will sail to Tonga for the next phase of Koa Moana 17.