MSC delivers for Cobra Gold

By Edward Baxter, MSCFE Public Affairs

Military Sealift Command-chartered container ship MV Capt. Steven L. Bennett completed cargo operations at the port of Chuk Sa Met, Thailand, delivering more than 520 pieces of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force cargo Feb. 8 to support exercise Cobra Gold 2013.

A U.S. Marine Corps utility vehicle is off-loaded from MSC-chartered ship MV CAPT Steven L. Bennett at Chuk Sa Met, Thailand. (U.S. Navy photo by Brian Tully)

MSC transported the cargo to Thailand for the exercise – a large-scale multinational exercise held each year throughout the Kingdom of Thailand – from ports on the Japanese island of Okinawa. MSC routinely charters commercial cargo ships to move U.S. military cargo from port to port.

“MSC is often the first in and last out,” said MSC Expeditionary Port Unit 115 executive officer Cmdr. Ross Lee, deployed to Okinawa for the exercise. “We bring in cargo and supplies which enables our forces to operate at their peak capacity.”

EPUs are MSC’s highly-mobile units which can quickly deploy to a contingency operation, establish port operations and manage the arrivals and departures of cargo ships in port.

Starting Feb. 11, more than 13,000 military personnel from the Thailand Singapore, Japan, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the U.S. will fan out across Thailand to participate in the 10-day Cobra Gold exercise, which includes live-fire training, computer-simulated scenarios, and humanitarian and civic assistance programs. This year, military members from Burma are observing the exercise for the first time.

At Okinawa, Reserve Sailors from Honolulu, Hawaii-based Expeditionary Port Unit 115, along with Sailors and civil service personnel from MSC’s permanent office on Okinawa, boarded Bennett Jan. 20 at Okinawa’s Naha Military port, meeting with the ship’s civilian captain, ship’s agent, port authorities and customs officials.

Bennett loaded 495 pieces of cargo, including Humvees, heavy trucks, crane trucks, trailers and tracked vehicles. After a short sail to Tengan pier, the remaining cargo, comprising shipping containers and some break-bulk cargo, was loaded aboard. All cargo was loaded by the ship’s three heavy-lift cranes.

With all cargo safely stowed, Bennett began the 1,700-nautical mile journey to Gulf of Thailand Jan. 23.

Throughout the cargo deployment mission, MSC personnel worked closely with U.S. Army personnel from Okinawa-based U.S. Army 835th Transportation Battalion and with 3rd MEF logistics specialists.

“Building relationships is a key goal of our Reserve personnel,” said operational support officer Charlie Brown, based at MSC Far East headquarters in Singapore. “We must work closely with our partners and host nation personnel in order to be successful.”

In Thailand, Sailors from Bronx, N.Y.-based EPU 102 manned a highly-specialized Mobile Sealift Operation Command Center, a portable facility that provides critical communications equipment for managing port operations even when a port infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.

Bennett arrived at Thailand’s Laem Chabang International Terminal Feb. 5, and shipping containers were off-loaded. The ship departed later that afternoon for the short transit to Chuk Sa Met.

From Chuk Sa Met, Marines are deploying cargo to the field for the live portion of Cobra Gold.



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