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Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
MSC PAO 03-34
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Sheree Callahan
(202) 685-5055
July 23, 2003

MSC area commands provide a world of service to military forces in Middle East
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From seaports worldwide, the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command provides a world of ocean transportation service to U.S. forces supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

MSC is the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense and operates non-combatant ships-about 120 on a normal day - that resupply the U.S. Navy fleet at sea, carry combat equipment for the Army and Marine Corps, and conduct undersea surveillance and oceanographic missions to support DOD. The command also delivers ammunition for just about everyone in DOD.

MSC area commands, strategically located in five major regions of the world, provide much of the hands-on work that gets the job done for DOD customers. Civilians, active duty military and reservists in Virginia, Italy, Bahrain, Japan and California provide maintenance management, logistics, support and other services to MSC ships at ports within their respective regions.

The most highly visible area command throughout OIF was MSC Central, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain. Most of the combat operations MSC supported occurred in this region.

At various Middle Eastern ports during OIF, a mix of active duty personnel, reservists and MSC Central staff members coordinated the unloading of more than 21 million square feet of dry cargo, nearly 95,000 tons of ammunition and more than 260 million gallons of fuel off MSC ships.

"The amount of cargo we delivered could fill all 119 Division 1-A college football fields three times over," said Commander of MSC, Vice Adm. David L. Brewer III, USN.

The busiest ports in the region were Ash Shuaybah, Kuwait, and Kuwait Naval Base where most of the cargo and ammunition were unloaded. While facing dust storms, high temperatures and harsh living conditions, the MSC Central team arranged for armed military personnel escorts to protect MSC ships, ensured that repairs were made on ships when problems occurred, set port arrival and departure schedules and ensured that these ships had enough fuel to make their voyages.

Another key area command, MSC Atlantic, headquartered in Norfolk, Va., monitored the loading of 115 ships at nine of the 11 U.S. ports used during OIF deployments.

From November 2002 to May 2003, nearly 85,000 pieces of cargo and 4,000 containers of ammunition, requiring 16 million square feet of cargo space, were loaded aboard MSC ships under MSC Atlantic's operational control. This was enough military cargo to fill the deck space of 58 Nimitz class aircraft carriers.

These figures comprised equipment loaded in Texas, Georgia and Florida for the U.S. Army's 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions and 101st Airborne Division, which included thousands of Abrahms main battle tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, humvees and helicopters.

During the increased port operations, the MSC Atlantic team and reservists had to contend with numerous simultaneous ship activations, the activation of reservists, the stand-up of armed military security forces for ship protection and the administration of immunizations for both anthrax and smallpox for MSC mariner crews.

Four of the 16 Navy fleet at sea underway replenishment ships normally operating in the MSC Atlantic region are still supporting OIF. The staff at MSC Europe, headquartered in Naples, Italy, and 36 reservists worked around-the-clock in the European region facilitating the flow of 124 MSC ships supporting OIF.

The Naples command established an office in Souda Bay, on the Greek Island of Crete, that coordinated refueling MSC ships heading to the Persian Gulf. The Souda Bay team also administered more than a thousand anthrax and about 700 smallpox immunizations to MSC ship crew members.

At about 30 ports throughout Europe the area command also provided logistical support in loading and unloading of MSC ships. Their cargo included hundreds of ammunition containers loaded at Nordenham, Germany, and thousands of tons of heavy combat equipment for the U.S. Army's V Corps and 4th Infantry Division loaded at Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Antwerp, Belgium. This logistics work included scheduling ship arrivals and departures to and from the regional ports and working with various port operators.

MSC ships transiting through four ports in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean while supporting OIF received much assistance from the hardworking team at MSC Far East, headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, who transferred food, supplies and repair parts to the ships.

While some MSC ships waited for deployment orders at the MSC Far East port in Diego Gracia, an island in the Indian Ocean, MSC Far East employees also arranged for fuel and food provisions as well as other logistic services at the port so that the ships were ready to rapidly depart when called.

MSC Far East also coordinated the sailing of two MSC afloat prepositioning ship squadrons.

These squadron ships are kept loaded with critical military equipment in strategic ocean areas around the world to ensure the rapid availability of this equipment during a contingency.

In January, MSC Far East oversaw the movement of Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Two, composed of five ships, to Kuwait to unload about 71,000 tons of equipment.

From December 2002 to February 2003, the Afloat Prepositioning Squadron Four, composed of nine ships, carried nearly 128,000 tons of Army equipment from Diego Garcia to Kuwait.

After performing their prepositioning mission, many of the ships have continued to transport DOD cargo in the region and some have gone back to locations within MSC Far East to be reloaded with their prepositioning cargo.

A year before Operation Iraqi Freedom began, engineers and support staff at MSC Pacific, headquartered in San Diego, Calif., were already preparing their 19 MSC Navy fleet underway replenishment ships with all the routine maintenance to keep them in top form in preparation for possible military operations in the Middle East.

The underway replenishment ships provide food, ammunition, equipment and fuel to the Navy fleets at sea. Twelve of MSC Pacific's 19 ships supported military operations in Iraq and four continue to support OIF.

In February, MSC Pacific provided direct support in the activation of 10 MSC cargo ships at various West Coast ports. They also coordinated the loading of another 10 MSC ships at Tacoma, Wash., and San Diego, Calif., which resulted in the movement of over 1 million square feet of military equipment for the U.S. Marine Corps 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.

MSC area commands still have an arduous task of coordinating the maintenance and logistics for MSC ships as they return home.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to the MSC team around the world who worked around-the-clock to kept everything running smoothly during the increased operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom," Vice Adm. Brewer said.

MSC normally operates 120 civilian-crewed, non-combatant ships for a variety of missions around the world. The number of ships expanded to about 214 in mid-March as additional ships were activated from reduced operating status or chartered for the command's support of U.S. forces in OIF.

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