By Travis Weger, MSCEURAF Public Affairs
When most people think of the U.S. Army, they may think of tanks, helicopters and troops. Aside from air and ground forces, the Army also has ships. Similar to Military Sealift Command, the Army has an operational and tactical sealift mission using vessels called Logistics Support Vessels (LSVs), which are designed to deliver vehicles and cargo and are the largest ships in their fleet.
Marine Transportation Specialist (MTS) John Myhre from Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa began working with Watercraft Traffic Manager Patrick S. May from U.S. Army Europe on scheduling the LSVs to transit back to the United States in the summer of 2019.
“We got in touch with their higher headquarters and realized they needed help with clearances and coordination to pull into port,” said Myhre.
Myhre, a former U.S. Army boat platoon leader and current drilling Army reservist, was familiar with the operations and requirements for the LSVs and leveraged his skills outside MSC to assist with the planning for these vessels.
“The LSVs have not operated here in this capacity since two of these vessels were deployed to augment air deployments in support of operations in Kosovo in the late 90s,” said May.
The LSVs have been overseas since 2001 and were returning back to the United States, which would be their first transit across the Atlantic in almost two decades. They needed to stop in Europe to refuel and resupply on their way back to the states.
“Our team brought the idea of coaching the Army through the diplomatic clearance and logistics processes,” said Myhre. “We do diplomatic clearances frequently, so this was an opportunity to help them pass through Europe on their way home while preserving our relationships with the host nations.”
A diplomatic clearance is an approval from a country for a ship to enter their territorial waters and is a process worked through the U.S. Embassy and host-nation. Myhre assisted the LSVs and their higher headquarters through this process with the U.S. Embassy Defense Attaché offices in Spain and Greece.
In Souda Bay, Greece, MTS Hugo Polanco and Lt. Cmdr. Joanna Bridge, a U.S. Navy Reservist assigned to MSC Souda Bay, were working the back-end preparing for the LSVs to arrive.
“The Army does things differently as far as contracting and money goes,” said Bridge. “It is not what we are used to, so this was a challenge.”
Upon arrival to Souda Bay, Polanco and Bridge coordinated between the Army, MSC and Commander, Task Force 63 to arrange the arrival time, pilots and tugs for the ships. The team also assisted the LSVs in coordinating with the local agent for parts and repairs.
“It was neat to relate to these seagoing soldiers,” said Polanco. “They are manned by U.S. Coast Guard certified active duty Army mariners that have the required skill set to operate a 83-meter vessel in open ocean, just like the Navy and our MSC civilian mariners operating ships at sea.”
LSVs carry cargo and equipment throughout a theater of operations or inter-theater routes that are not serviced by MSC. They have bow and stern ramps for roll-on, roll-off cargo vehicles and specialize in over-sized and overweight payloads. These vessels are specifically designed to handle the over-the-shore delivery of any vehicle in the U.S. Army inventory and can carry up to 15 Abrams main battle tanks or 82 containers.
“We value the partnership with our seagoing brethren in the Army Watercraft field,” said Myhre, “their purpose is logistics and so is ours, so it made sense for MSC to help. A lot of the credit goes to the team in Souda Bay, they did a great job.”