Over the past year our military and government organizations faced a number of common challenges such as decreasing resources, increasing operational demands, evolving capabilities of adversaries and emerging or sustained threats including cyber warfare. In FY 2015, Military Sealift Command (MSC) met these and other challenges head-on by staying focused on our four key priorities: providing ships ready for tasking, workforce development, customer engagement, and managing organizational change. One challenge we are facing head-on at Military Sealift Command is safety, the safety of our mariners at sea and the safe operation of our ships. We are implementing a plan to improve both individual and Command ownership of safety challenges and processes. Safety is a mindset and safety must be part of our culture, every day and in everything we do.
Operations and Exercises
Every day during this past year at locations around the world, MSC ships operated and supported five mission areas: combat logistics, service and command support, special missions, prepositioning, and sealift. Using surge sealift vessels USNS Kocak and USNS Obregon for support, we assisted in our U.S. Army Pacific’s shift from sustainment operations in the Central Command area of operations to building regional partnerships in the Pacific during Pacific Pathways 2015. Military Sealift Command executed operations in extreme conditions during the annual resupply missions to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station in Antarctica and the radar site at Thule Air Base, Greenland.
MSC ships participated in major exercises such as Bold Alligator, Combined Joint Logistics Over the Shore, and Obangame Express. We further developed our techniques and procedures for sea basing and expeditionary operations. During Pacific Horizons, USNS Montford Point, our Navy’s first expeditionary transfer dock, demonstrated its ability to perform skin-to-skin operations, vehicle transfer, and to launch and recover Landing Craft, Air Cushion while attached to large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Bob Hope. USNS Spearhead, our first expeditionary fast transport (EPF), served as the platform to test unmanned aerial vehicle operations while our Navy’s laser weapon system successfully deployed and operated aboard the interim afloat forward staging base USS Ponce.
We accepted delivery of USNS Trenton, our Navy’s fifth EPF, and will accept the sixth, USNS Brunswick, in FY 2016. Our EPF program is maturing as ships from this class are beginning to operate at their permanent strategic laydown locations around the world. We also accepted delivery of USNS Lewis B. Puller, our Navy’s first expeditionary mobile base, which is expected to deploy to our U.S. Navy 5th Fleet area of responsibility after conducting additional testing and evaluation on the East Coast. In FY 2016 we will see funding for our new fleet oiler which will replace our aging single-hull fleet oiler and ensure continued combat logistics support to our ships. And, we will accept delivery of our new oceanographic survey ship, USNS Maury.
Both hospital ships, USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, were activated from reserve status and conducted six-month deployments, providing medical and dental assistance, engineering support, and strengthening relationships and disaster response preparedness in the Caribbean and Pacific areas. Military personnel or civilian mariners from ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable, dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS William McLean, and hospital ship USNS Mercy, saved 19 individuals during at-sea rescue operations. Mariners from Prepositioning Squadron Three delivered water and ice to the people of Saipan when all public services on the island were inoperable following the destruction from Typhoon Soudelor.
We revised the designations to several of our classes of ships to better reflect the expeditionary nature of their operations. The joint high speed vessel is now the expeditionary fast transport (EPF). Mobile landing platforms are now expeditionary transfer docks (ESD). And finally, the afloat staging base variant of the ESD is redesignated expeditionary mobile base (ESB). These changes will be consistent with ship operations and assigned mission sets.
At the start of FY 2015, we officially began geographically consolidating at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, a single headquarters that since 2012 has been physically split between the Washington Navy Yard, D.C., and Naval Station Norfolk. This move has already helped our organization to streamline processes, maximize customer service, and cut costs associated with maintaining two geographic headquarters’ locations. Our consolidation is scheduled to be complete by the end of FY 2017.
I am amazed at the quality of people and level of talent at MSC! On any given day, we have about 115 ships at sea, operating in every time zone, supporting missions as diverse as surveying the ocean floor to delivering food and munitions to combatant ships to operating platforms that are testing the most advanced weapon systems. There is a key ingredient that makes us successful, and that’s our people; our civilian and contract mariners who operate our 170-ship fleet, and our ashore staff that provides a depth of experience and an eagerness to support our afloat team. Our men and women who make up our afloat and ashore workforce are the best in the world. What they do directly supports the agencies that are responsible for the safety and security of our nation. I admire their commitment and dedication to what is a very demanding job. I remain proud of our team and honored to lead such professionals.
Rear Adm. T. K. Shannon, USN
Commander, Military Sealift Command
The Military Sealift Command Year in Review annual publication can be viewed or downloaded at the following link: