n the uncertain and sometimes hostile post-9/11 environment, one thing has remained certain for United States war fighters around the globe: wherever, whenever – whether tanks or trucks, food or fuel – if it's needed to fight the global war on terrorism, Military Sealift Command delivers. This was especially true when the United States and her coalition partners carried the war on terrorism to Iraq.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
From January through the end of April, MSC moved almost 21 million square feet of war-fighting cargo and equipment and more than 261 million gallons of fuel for the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force units involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom. At the same time, MSC ships pumped more than 117 million gallons of ship and aircraft fuel and transferred almost 199,000 pallets, or an estimated 5.3 million square feet, of food, spare parts, equipment and munitions to Navy combat ships around the world. Altogether, MSC moved more than one-third of a billion gallons of fuel and nearly 26 million square feet of war-fighting supplies and equipment in four short months.
When the buildup for Operation Iraqi Freedom began, MSC prepositioning ships were first on scene with significant amounts of combat gear for ground troops. The advantage of prepositioning combat equipment at sea in strategic locations around the world is that all four U.S. armed services can rapidly deliver large amounts of critical combat cargo to any theater worldwide.
Force protection was critical for MSC ships delivering war supplies and equipment, and the Guardian Mariner program provided the solution. U.S. Transportation Command developed the program, activating more than 1,300 Army National Guard troops from the Puerto Rico National Guard Unit 92nd Separate Infantry Brigade. The troops were organized into 110, 12-person teams and moved aboard our ships to provide security and protection from terrorists as the ships transited to and from Southwest Asia.
Operation Enduring Freedom:
Sept. 11, 2001 to present
Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Jan. 1 to May 1, 2003
Of all the ships MSC used to transport cargo during Operation Iraqi Freedom, our large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships, or LMSRs, were the prime movers with a carrying capacity of 300,000 square feet per ship. MSC acquired these ships as a result of lessons learned in Operation Desert Storm in 1990-1. The LMSRs performed exactly as they were designed, assuring the timely arrival of vast amounts of combat equipment and supplies in theater. Now, we need to expand those lift capabilities with purpose-designed, high-speed, shallow-draft vessels that can operate in the littorals and provide faster, more efficient transport of combat gear from factory to foxhole.
The MSC surge story during Operation Iraqi Freedom also included our workhorse fast sealift ships and the U.S. Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force roll-on/roll-off ships. Upgraded since the first Gulf War, the RRF ships were efficient and effective transporters for the war in Iraq.
Finally, as all the sea transportation requirements were defined for Operation Iraqi Freedom, we were once again reminded of the importance of commercial charters. The commercial market was able to cover spikes in demand that could not be met by government-owned ships. We will continue to rely on our partners in the commercial maritime industry. They are an integral part of the U.S. defense team.
Operation Iraqi Freedom did not consume all of MSC's waking hours. Normal missions continued as well, and with them came the need for continued innovation.
T-5 tanker purchases
In 2003, MSC purchased four of five T-5 commercial tankers that had been under long-term charter to the command. USNS Lawrence H. Gianella, USNS Paul Buck, USNS Richard G. Matthiesen and USNS Samuel L. Cobb are the mainstay of MSC's petroleum products movements. The purchase will save the Navy $300 million over the life of the ships.
Commercial helicopter service expansion
MSC first deployed an operational commercial detachment in 1996 for six months to Guam and the Persian Gulf. A second deployment, to the Mediterranean Sea, took place in 1997. Following a three-year break, MSC again deployed a commercial helicopter detachment to the Mediterranean in January 2000, this time on a full-time basis. Since then, a commercial, two-aircraft helicopter detachment has been successfully conducting vertical replenishment missions from MSC combat stores ships in the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. The reliability and operational capabilities of the commercial aircraft have been noted by Fleet Forces Command, which has renewed the contract for the Atlantic Fleet detachment with an option for a second detachment. The Chief of Naval Operations has also directed a study on the use of commercial helicopter detachments to support Pacific Fleet ships.
Underway replenishment capabilities
Fast combat support ship USS Rainier transferred to MSC from the Navy combatant fleet this past year, joining sister ships USNS Supply and USNS Arctic. When USS Bridge transfers to MSC in 2004, we will save the Navy more than $76 million annually in operational costs and will have returned a total of approximately 2,000 active-duty billets to the fleet, while providing the same high level of service to our customers. We're able to do this primarily because of the high experience levels of our civil service mariners.
Beginning in FY 2005, MSC will take delivery of the first of up to 11 new Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo/ammunition ships that will significantly upgrade combat fleet replenishment capabilities. The new ships will carry two grades of fuel for Navy ships and aircraft, as well as ammunition and dry stores, and will replace MSC's Kilauea-class ammunition ships, and Mars-class and Sirius-class combat stores ships.
Between the Supply-class fast combat support ships and the new Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo/ammunition ships, MSC will add up to 2,500 professional civil service mariners to its employee base by FY 2010.
High-speed vessel technology
As one of the Navy's major contracting activities, we chartered HSV 2 Swift, a high-speed catamaran, to serve as an interim replacement for the mine countermeasures command ship USS Inchon. Operated by Mine Warfare Command, the Naval Warfare Development Center and the U.S. Marine Corps, Swift will function as a test platform to explore possibilities in the mine warfare mission and as a demonstration platform.
Looking ahead, MSC continues to find innovative ways to help the Navy recapitalize the fleet through cost savings and cost avoidance measures.
Salvage ships and submarine tenders
As the Navy seeks efficiencies throughout the fleet, we are exploring the possible MSC operation of salvage ships and submarine tenders currently under active-duty Navy operation. MSC fleet tugs already work hand-in-hand with Navy salvage experts on recovery operations, thus the transition to all-MSC operation of Navy salvage ships seems logical. Submarine tenders perform most of their work as submarine intermediate maintenance and repair facilities while docked at piers. Turning over ship operations of these vessels to MSC mariners would free Sailors for assignment to more critical jobs aboard war-fighting ships.
Afloat Forward Staging Base
MSC, through the CNO's SeaPower 21 and sea-basing initiative, is developing the concept of the afloat forward staging base to rapidly and efficiently meet the U.S. Marine Corps' future requirements and to support joint forces' ability to launch combat power from the sea. MSC is exploring a commercial approach to the AFSB, taking advantage of our experience with the maritime community and industry's research and development capabilities.
The proposed AFSB concept uses a 1,140-foot commercial container ship with a 140-foot beam, puts a flight deck on top to launch and recover helicopters and, potentially, short take-off and landing, fixed-wing aircraft. The ship would use modular berthing, feeding, medical and administrative spaces and would incorporate a selective cargo discharge system, automating supply selection and distribution.
Fiscal year 2003 was a fast-paced and challenging year. Military Sealift Command once again proved to be a key asset in our nation's defense strategy. As we move forward to the challenges of the future, the command is not resting on the laurels of a highly successful history. We're working hard to increase our efficiency and effectiveness and to improve our service to customers. Let there be no doubt; MSC will deliver!
VICE ADMIRAL DAVID L. BREWER III, USN
Commander, Military Sealift Command