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NEWS | May 7, 2020

Reversing Roles during Unconventional Times: U.S. Navy Ships Support Military Sealift Command

By Lt. j. g. Kristen Devereaux, CTF-63

For the first time in Military Sealift Command (MSC) and 6th Fleet history, MSC’s Supply-class fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6), which typically provides support to U.S. Navy and allied ships through rapid refueling and replenishment-at-sea (RAS), was resupplied by U.S. Navy ships, May 1, 2020.

With guidance from Logistics Specialists at Task Force 63 (CTF-63), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) delivered fruits and vegetables, foul-weather gear, mail and milk to Supply during multiple RASs in the Mediterranean and North Seas.

"In my 30 years in the Navy, I have never seen a DDG deliver fresh milk to a combat logistics force ship," said CTF-63 Logistics Director Cmdr. Romeo Bautista. "The current challenges and restrictions brought by the COVID-19 global pandemic are providing ample opportunities for logisticians and warfighters to think outside of the box to ensure uninterrupted logistics support in the 6th fleet area of operations."

Operating during the COVID-19 environment has presented unique challenges to resupplying ships. Supply was faced with multiple, sudden schedule changes, which caused missed and canceled opportunities to fully replenish while in port.

“It was definitely an interesting situation being on the other end of the wire,” said USNS Supply Second Officer Tegan Church. “The crew of Supply is extremely grateful for what the DDG's and logistics teams were able to accomplish for us. Not only was the fresh food and foul weather gear greatly appreciated, but the mail was a definite morale booster for the crew.”

“Even though our job is to support them,” continues Church, “it gives me a warm fuzzy knowing that they are here to supply us too.”

Although the fleet has become accustomed to support from MSC, this provided an opportunity for the fleet to demonstrate its flexibility and how they can work together regardless of class or mission type.

MSC and U.S. Naval Forces worked together to develop the approach to provide support to Supply while at sea. Several methods were explored and the approach of using the DDGs was selected.

“Looking at the schedule, I knew we needed to be creative,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Emily Bongolan. “Supply had been doing everything they could and due to the current environment were unable to receive everything they need. I wanted to make sure they were priority, we worked hard for them like we would with any of our ships.”

The resupply happened through coordinated teamwork between logistics teams at CTF-63, Supply and the DDGs. Donald Cook picked up milk and had extra fruits and vegetables onboard, Porter picked up mail and Roosevelt picked up foul-weather gear. Goods were delivered to Supply by a connected replenishment and helicopter in a vertical replenishment.

Vastly smaller in size, DDGs are not typically equipped to provide supplies to other ships, so storage space was created to hold the provisions for Supply.

"This truly shows the flexibility of Military Sealift Command and Task Force 63," said Commodore, Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa and Commander, Task Force 63 Capt. Frank Okata. "We are able to think through problems and come up with outstanding solutions. I am proud to be working with a talented group of Sailors and civilians who are able to come up with unique results like this." 

MSC, which operates approximately 125 naval auxiliary civilian-crewed ships, replenishes U.S. Navy ships, strategically prepositions combat cargo at sea and moves military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners around the world.