Navy ship off-loads cargo for Freedom Banner 2014

Maritime Prepositioning Force ship USNS 2ND LT John P. Bobo (T-AK 3008) off-loaded hundreds of pieces of U.S. Marine Corps rolling stock and containerized cargo this week at the Republic of Korea port of Gwangyang. The following blog by Edward Baxter, Military Sealift Command Far East public affairs, highlights Bobo’s role in exercise Freedom Banner 2014.

GWANGYANG, REPUBLIC OF KOREA (March 10, 2014) A U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) rolls off the stern ramp of USNS 2ND LT John P. Bobo (T-AK 3008) at the South Korean port of Gwyangyang March 10 in support of annual exercise Freedom Banner 2014. Bobo discharged a total of 329 pieces of rolling stock and containerized cargo to support the Okinawa-based 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force. The cargo will deploy to various sites throughout South Korea for a series of exercises with the Republic of Korea which are defensive in nature. (U.S. Navy photo by HM2 Tracey Miller)

GWANGYANG, REPUBLIC OF KOREA (March 10, 2014) A U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) rolls off the stern ramp of USNS 2ND LT John P. Bobo (T-AK 3008) at the South Korean port of Gwyangyang March 10 in support of annual exercise Freedom Banner 2014. Bobo discharged a total of 329 pieces of rolling stock and containerized cargo to support the Okinawa-based 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force. The cargo will deploy to various sites throughout South Korea for a series of exercises with the Republic of Korea which are defensive in nature. (U.S. Navy photo by HM2 Tracey Miller)

The offload is part of exercise Freedom Banner 2014, conducted annually in support of a major Pacific-based theater exercise. This year, Freedom Banner provides the military hardware for a III Marine Expeditionary Force exercise to be held at various sites throughout the Republic of Korea through the middle of April.

MEFEX comprises 8,700 U.S. and ROK personnel, and is tied to several other exercises including Korea Marine Exercise Program, an amphibious assault exercise called Ssang Yong and the ongoing Key Resolve exercise. All exercises are defensive in nature and provide opportunity for strengthening relationships and interoperability between Republic of Korea and U.S. forces.

Freedom Banner demonstrates the capabilities of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, using combat equipment and supplies strategically prepositioned aboard Bobo. The complex training brings together Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One Sailors and the merchant mariners working for a private company under contract to MSC who operate the ship.

Beginning March 10, tactical vehicles and amphibious assault vehicles thundered down Bobo’s massive stern ramp. Simultaneously, heavy-lift cranes staged on Bobo’s main deck off-loaded scores of shipping containers containing everything from medical supplies to meals-ready-to-eat.

An advance team of Marines and Sailors arrived last month aboard USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2). About 200 U.S. military personnel established a support element at Gwangyang to support the exercise. Sacagawea also delivered advance equipment including wheeled vehicles.

MSC Reserve Sailors play an important role during the exercise. Ten Sailors from Oklahoma City, Okla., Expeditionary Port Unit 111, and from MSC’s Strategic Sealift Officer program, are currently deployed to Gwangyang port. EPU 111 is embedded with the Marines’ Combat Logistics Regiment 35 and serves as a liaison between the Marines and the ship. EPUs are highly mobile units that can quickly deploy to a contingency, establish port operations and manage the arrival and departure of cargo ships in port.

Freedom Banner is scheduled to conclude in mid-April where cargo will be reconstituted aboard both Bobo and Sacagawea. Both ships are part of Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Three, a fleet of 11 government-owned and commercially-contracted ships which move from port to port in many allied nations in the Pacific Rim throughout the year. The MPS program supports ongoing theater security cooperation and enables security and stability for all nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

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