Aboard Frank Cable, Sailors and CIVMARs are One Team

The following blog post was modifed from a story written by  Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gabrielle Joyner and Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zac Shea aboard USS Frank Cable in Guam. The original story is available here.

The submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) is a unique ship, layberthed on the island of Guam. 

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Salisbury/Released

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Salisbury/Released

It does not launch missiles like a cruiser. At a length of 644 feet, it does not invoke the same awe as an aircraft carrier. However, its mission as a submarine tender is one of grave significance and it has a powerful tool in hits arsenal that many other ships do not, a hybrid crew of Sailors and civilian mariners (CIVMARS).

Military Sealift Command (MSC) comprises roughly 20 percent of Frank Cable’s crew and together with Sailors, they make the Frank Cable’s mission of conducting maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility possible.

The Navy benefits from the best of both worlds; a smaller number of CIVMAR crew to perform basic ship functions while maintaining the advantage of a full U.S. Navy repair department to provide services to the warships we are tasked to support,” said David Kramer, officer in charge of MSC on Frank Cable.

“Frank Cable’s crew clearly illustrates that the hybrid crew concept can be successful and that hybrid crewed ships are able to meet the needs of the Navy.”

“We had the first over-the-side handling of a tomahawk and torpedo in 10 years last summer. That was a huge win,” said Capt. Pete Hildreth, commanding officer of Frank Cable. “I think a big reason why Frank Cable is successful is because both the Sailors and the CIVMARs are committed to getting the mission accomplished and want to see the ship be successful. Whether it’s bringing a submarine along side, repairing a submarine, or handling weapons, they’re all dedicated to getting the mission accomplished.”

Navy and MSC have integrated in various areas on the ship. Both sides owe their successes to rigorous preparation and teamwork.

“MSC puts a lot of effort into training the junior officer of the deck on navigation, contact management, radars and basic underway procedures and I think that’s a real success story there,” added Hildreth. “The integration in the damage control lockers I think has also been a big success. You see the Sailors and CIVMARs working together to combat casualties in a drill scenario, that’s worked out really well for us.”

For many other ships in the Navy, the thought of civilian mariners living together and working side by side with Sailors would be completely foreign, but for this submarine tender, it’s just business as usual.

“Whatever the plan of the day is, MSC CIVMARs and U.S. Navy Sailors already know that we are one ship, one crew and get the job done,” said Paul Torres, an Able Bodied Seaman with MSC. “We are all doing our thing and working in harmony. I’m very glad to be a part of the crew aboard Frank Cable and I would not trade it for anything.”

Navy personnel assigned to Frank Cable felt similarly.

“It’s a well-oiled machine,” said Lt. j.g. Jesse Cross, Frank Cable’s assistant radiological controls officer, who works with MSC during his junior officer of the deck watches. “The chief mate and chief engineer work hand in hand with the commanding officer and executive officer and I think that mentality of teamwork is echoed throughout the wardroom and the chiefs’ mess.”

This spirit of cooperation isn’t limited to the senior ranks. Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Logan Freitag works in the supply department alongside CIVMARs and believes respect and courtesy are essential to maintaining a positive relationship.

“The CIVMARs manage about half of our store rooms on Frank Cable,” said Freitag. “The interaction is always very professional and runs smoothly for everyone involved.”

MSC, formerly the Military Sea Transportation Service, was established during World War II and has been present during many major military operations ever since.

“Together, we can complete any mission and get anything done,” said Torres. “We are the mighty AS-40.”

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