SUBIC BAY, Republic of the Philippines - Navy ships and personnel assigned to Military Sealift Command transported Marine Corps combat equipment and supplies to Subic Bay March 21-26, in support of exercises Freedom Banner and Balikatan.
Freedom Banner is an annual exercise held in conjunction with a large-scale exercise in the Pacific.
This year's primary exercise is Balikitan, a Marine Corps exercise providing humanitarian civic assistance and live-fire field training in the Philippines, April 5-17.
Designed to deliver military cargo and supplies in response to a contingency, Marine Prepositioning Force ship USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), and its crew, transported hundreds of tactical vehicles and amphibious assault vehicles culminitating in a pierside offload during Freedom Banner 2013.
Dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Sacagawea(T-AKE 2)also provided support by remaining off shore during the exercise, testing ship-to-shore sustainment of troops and equipment.
MSC-contracted vessel MV Capt. Steven L. Bennett delivered additional Marine Corps cargo from Okinawa. The 687-foot container ship offloaded 430 pieces of equipment, including vehicles, containerized equipment and break-bulk cargo.
MSC Reservists played an important role during the exercise. Sailors from Expeditionary Port Units 102 and 105, along with Reservists assigned to the Navy's Strategic Sealift Officer program, crewed a mobile sealift operations command center. They also crewed a portable communications facility designed to operate and manage port operations even if port infrastructure is damaged or destroyed. Sailors assigned to MSC Office Korea deployed to Subic Bay in support of the exercises.
"We gained critical real-world mission experience which will contribute directly to our unit's overall readiness," said Lt. Cmdr. William Hartman, EPU 102.
At the conclusion of the Balikatan exercise, cargo will be reconstituted aboard Lummus and Sacagawea. The reconstitution also concludes Freedom Banner 2013. Remaing cargo is then delivered back to Okinawa aboard a to-be-determined contract vessel.
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.