Fisher brings 1st Cav home
By Katie Dunnigan
Operation Iraqi Freedom has evolved from a 100-yard dash into a marathon for the U.S. military. As war-weary troops return home and fresh units deploy, the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command has the important job of guaranteeing the United States's endurance by transporting combat cargo to and from the Middle East.
In May, large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Fisher pulled into the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, to off-load more than 253,000 square feet of equipment for the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division. The division and nearly 1,500 pieces of equipment returned from Iraq after serving for more than a year as Task Force Baghdad.
"Together, [the 1st Cavalry Division] and our Iraqi partners [have] improved the way of life for the Iraqi people, conducting more than 800 civil engineering projects totaling more than $104 million in Baghdad," said Army Lt. Gen. John Vies, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq, at a news conference in February. "The division has sponsored 14 Iraqi police academies, rebuilt 600 schools, conducted more than 70 electrical projects totaling $1.8 million and contributed $8.3 million in grants to Iraqi businesses."
Most of this massive off-load was handled by the Army's 1395th Transportation Terminal Brigade working together with longshoremen from the Port of Corpus Christi. An Army reserve unit composed of 114 Soldiers from around the nation, the 1395th was mobilized to manage military cargo at the Port of Corpus Christi.
The Humvees, tanks, trucks and tracked vehicles are returning to the United States after being used by the 1st Cavalry in their efforts to rebuild Iraq.
"Part of rebuilding Iraq is repairing the country's infrastructure or creating infrastructure where none existed before. A major part of this effort is building roads," said Capt. Ed Higgins, Fisher's master. "Much of the equipment needed for constructing roads and buildings is carried by ships like Fisher."
The 950-foot long ship is crewed by 30 commercial mariners who work for a company contracted to operate the ship for MSC. Although the ship's crew members are civilians, operating this ship helps them support the global war on terrorism in a very real way.
"I feel fortunate and privileged to serve such an important role in the United States' war on terrorism. I think I speak for the whole crew when I say that it makes me very proud," said Capt. Higgins.
"This is what this ship was made for," said Morgan McManus, Fisher's chief mate. "Essentially, this entire ship was built around 380,000 square feet of cargo hold space.
"This successful off-load is a perfect example of how MSC is able to successfully respond to the needs of the U.S. military."
MSC's civilian-crewed cargo ships, like Fisher, have collectively moved more than 75 million square feet of cargo since Sept. 11, 2001. That is equal to more than 800,000 SUVs, which, if lined up end-to-end on the nation's highways, would stretch from Austin, Texas, to Seattle.