Underway replenishments keep our Navy’s 5th Fleet mission-ready

Our Naval forces of U.S. 5th Fleet operate day in and day out to support missions like Operation Enduring Freedom, maritime security operations, and cooperation exercises with our partners in the region. None of these exercises, operations or daily tasks would be possible without a well-coordinated sustainment plan and the associated infrastructure. MSC provides that sustainment by working with 5th Fleet’s other task forces, and Combined Maritime Forces members, to meet supply and logistics demands of ships across the region. These three commands fulfill different aspects of the overarching sustainment mission, and work together to get our forces what they need. The following blog is part of a series focused on MSC support to 5th Fleet, written by Lt. j.g. Paul Williams, a Navy reservist who visited the Central Command AOR during May 2013.

MSC is responsible for keeping U.S. Navy combatant ships and U.S. allied coalition ships fortified with fuel (ship and aviation), food, parts and other military cargo and supplies, and he delivery of fuel, military cargo and supplies to 5th Fleet vessels operating in CENTCOM is the responsibility of MSC.

Our ships perform their deliveries at sea to 5th Fleet and coalition partners through a process called underway replenishment (UNREP).  During an UNREP, the USNS ship and the U.S. Navy or allied combatant ship usually position themselves parallel to each other and travel in tandem at identical speed.  The ships are no more than 50 yards apart, requiring precise maneuvering and control by both ships – if fuel is needed, fuel lines are sent from the MSC ship and the fueling process commences. Military supplies and cargo are sent over-the-side on suspended lines that transport the cargo over the water between the two ships usually on pallets or containers. 

A single UNREP can last a couple of hours or more – focus and awareness are key. 

Performing an UNREP is always exciting no matter how long you have been at sea.  We know that the Humphreys and other MSCCENT ships play a major role in keeping 5th Fleet ships out at sea,” said Chief Engineer Brian Swan.

U.S. Navy photo by  Lt.j.g.  Paul J. Williams/Released

U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Paul J. Williams/Released

 An UNREP is one of the most complicated operations that can be performed at sea.  Yet, ships like USNS Joshua Humphreys sometimes perform several in a day and overcome obstacles that arise. 

“We have excellent training at MSC and we also have a lot of experienced crew members who know what it takes to perform UNREPS at a high level,” said Second Officer Matt Hofer.

For ship’s boatswain Pat Mooney, safety is also a paramount concern.

“It is always a great day if nobody gets hurt and everyone is safe, especially after a long day of performing multiple UNREPS.  It is constant challenge and a challenge we take very seriously to ensure we are doing things safely and always looking out for each other,” said Mooney.

Performing UNREPS is the primary function of ships like the USNS Joshua Humphreys.

“I like pulling up side-by-side to a combatant ship for an UNREP and observing maritime academy cadets or new crew members experience this for the first time,” said Swan. 

“Not only are they witnessing what we as an MSC ship provide but they also see our customer, 5th Fleet, which represents our American might.  They realize that the job we do in performing UNREPS puts MSC and its ships right in the middle of the action.”

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