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MSC Ships Deliver Marines, Cargo to Philippines for Balikatan

05 April 2016

From Grady Fontana, Military Sealift Command Far East

Three Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships delivered Marines and their equipment to Subic Bay ahead of exercise Balikatan, which kicked off April 4.

OLONGAPO, Philippines - Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) maritime prepositioning force (MPF) ship USNS 1ST LT Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011) arrived at Subic Bay here, March 26-29, and offloaded her cargo to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Marines in preparation for exercise Balikatan 16 (BK16).

BK16, in its 32nd iteration, is scheduled to take place on the Philippine islands of Luzon, Palawan, and Panay and is an annual bilateral exercise that involves U.S. military and Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel and subject matter experts from Philippine Civil Defense agencies.

At the end of the two-day offload, the Lummus discharged more than 100 personnel, 157 vehicles and 12 shipping containers of equipment.

The Lummus is part of Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadrom Three (MPSRON-3), which carries heavy equipment and supplies for the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force supporting contingencies and operations in the Pacific. The equipment off the Lummus was afloat prepositioned gear for the Marine Corps and summoned to equip the Marines for BK16.

“This equipment coming off the (Lummus) is designed to supplement or provide by table-of-equipment a conceptualized Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), which is our second largest Marine air-ground task force in the Marine Corps,” said Marine Capt. Mitchell Borley, technical advisory and assistance team officer-in-charge, Blount Island Command, out of Jacksonville, Fla. “The MPF provides a maneuver capability for such a large, strategic amount of equipment—and employ it forward, anywhere there’s a port, or just a beach.”

Unlike other offload operations that use the services of stevedore, Marines offloaded all the equipment as part of their exercise to maintain proficiency in discharge operations. In the event of a real-world crisis, and an MPF ship is called upon, Marines would merry up with the ship to discharge her cargo.

“The MPF equipment provides a strategic asset for rapidly mobilizing a MEB in the event of a contingency, or something more or less than that,” said Borley. “The MPF ships can provide all classes of supplies and military equipment that can equip a Marine air-ground task force for utilization during sustained operations.”

In addition to the Lummus, the expeditionary fast transport Millinocket (T-EPF 3) also offload her gear in support of the Marines from Okinawa, Japan. The Millinocket delivered about 32 military vehicles and 50 pallets of equipment to support the Marines in CG16.

The Millinocket is one the MSC’s newest class of ships and is designed to provide fast, intra-theater transport of troops, military vehicles, and equipment. A logistics workhorse, the Millinocket functions as a delivery vehicle for cargo, personnel and modular/tailored forces in response to a wide range of mission demands.

Her unique capabilities make the Millinocket a platform that is in high demand. She can provide a persistent regional presence in the Pacific, which increases regional maritime security.

EPFs are capable of transporting 600 tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. Her aviation flight deck can support day and night flight operations for a wide variety of aircraft.

CG16 is the Millinocket’s second mission since her delivery to MSC. She also participated in Pacific Partnership 15.

A third MSC ship, surge sealift, roll-on/roll-off ship USNS MAJ Stephen W. Pless (T-AK 3007), offloaded her cargo April 1-2.

Concurrently, the USNS Pless is on mission supporting U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) Pacific Pathway 16-1 (PP 16-1), a transportation operation supporting three exercises. The Pless offloaded more than 616 pieces between the Army, Marines and Navy, according to U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Lorena C. Peck, senior mobility officer, USARPAC out of Ft. Shafter, Hawaii.

The Pless started the PP 16-1 mission at Joint Base Lewis–McChord (JBLM) in Tacoma, Wash. When she embarked a joint task force of ship riders to execute the mission. BK16 is the final leg of Pacific Pathway 16-1.

“We take a single vessel and a single task force and take it to numerous exercises. It saves money, cuts legs off transportation and allows us to bring a bigger force with more capability to the exercises.”

The Pless offloaded her cargo in early February in support of Cobra Gold 16 (CG16) in Thailand. The Pless then backloaded the ship at the end of February, and then rolled over to South Korea to offload the Army equipment for Exercise Foal Eagle. She then returned to Okinawa to offload Marine Corps equipment from CG16, and uploaded the new Marine gear for Exercise BK16.

The ship returned to South Korea to pick up the Army force, and moved to the Philippines to offload for BK16. Finally, she will reverse sequence back to JBLM to drop off the remainder of the joint task force.

“PP 16-1 consolidates a force on a vessel and keeps it out so it does multiple iterations of loading and offloading a vessel,” said Peck. “This is a five-and-a-half-month mini deployment to three different countries, which we would have loaded the ship at least five times.”

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.

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