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May 2007

HSOTS phase 2 held in San Diego
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By James Jackson, SEALOGPAC Public Affairs

SS Cape Mohican offloads an amphibious landing craft
The Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force barge carrier SS Cape Mohican offloads an amphibious landing craft during HSOTS 2007. The exercise tested the ship's ability to on-load and off-load small landing craft. RRF ships come under MSC's operational control when they are activated. James Jackson, photo

Although the largest portion of the exercise was held hundreds of miles away in Guatemala, for one ship, the exercise didn't end there.

SS Cape Mohican participated in the second phase of the Humantarian- Support-Over-the-Shore exercise, in San Diego March 9-14.

The first phase of the exercise - in Guatemala Jan. 18 to March 7 - focused on delivering humanitarian and medical supplies to Central American countries. The second and final phase of the exercise focused on the logistical challenges of moving equipment from ships to shore.

Cape Mohican is assigned to the U.S. Maritime Administration's 47-ship Ready Reserve Force. RRF ships are normally kept pierside in reduced operating status, and come under Military Sealift Command operational control when activated.

"The HSOTS '07 exercise proved to be a great training opportunity for Cape Mohican, as the crew once again demonstrated its ability to bring her special cargoloading capabilities to a major exercise when called upon," said civilian master Capt. Jack Cunningham.

The mission during phase two of the exercise was to demonstrate the ship's ability to safely load six amphibious landing craft units with their crews on board Cape Mohican in support of an amphibious operation.

Although the test wasn't held offshore like other Joint-Logistics- Over-the-Shore exercises, it did demonstrate a capability that would be instrumental to any future overthe- shore operation.

"They call; we haul," Cunningham said. "Cape Mohican brought a unique capability to this year's exercise.

We are one of only two Maritime Administration ships capable of performing this kind of sea-toship lift. We are not an amphibious ship like an LHA or the new LHD, which flood their well decks to allow landing craft units and landing craft air cushion vehicles to enter and depart. However, our specialized elevator gives us similar amphibious-like capabilities."

Cape Mohican was originally designed as a vehicle cargo ship with a specially designed elevator that can be lowered to eight feet below the water line. This provides enough depth to allow landing craft units and other amphibious vehicles to drive onto the elevator for a smooth lift to the main deck of the 853-foot-long ship. Once the craft are on the elevator, they are secured with chains and with the use of a deck shuttle system, the craft can be moved to the forward portion of the ship, creating enough space to load crews and six landing craft safely on board.

The test was a complete success according to Navy Cmdr. Chris Landis, commanding officer of Assault Craft Unit One.

"The ship's ability to carry six landing craft could be very useful in support of future amphibious operations," said Landis. "Senior Navy leadership was very interested in the outcome of this exercise.

We are always looking at alternate methods to accomplish our mission and exercises like this are great learning tools for us."