Story by Grady Fontana, Military Sealift Command Far East
APRA HARBOR, Guam –Military Sealift Command (MSC) expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) departed Guam, on schedule, bound for Pacific Partnership 2018’s (PP18) first stop in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia, after a major cargo swap with the USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4), March 19.
USNS Brunswick replaced expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River as the secondary mission platform for PP18 mission due to emerging maintenance requirements on the Fall River.
The Brunswick is now on mission with hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19); however, the two ships will visit different Asia-Pacific nations during the course of PP18. Increasing the reach and scope of PP18, participants and host nation counterparts will conduct technical expertise exchanges in medical, engineering, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The replacement of ships comes after a pre-deployment inspection on USNS Fall River revealed a need for additional maintenance and repairs. The maintenance for Fall River will exceed the time required for Pacific Partnership personnel to arrive at their initial mission stops.
“Every organization faces the same challenge when operating complex machinery. Machines break, often at the most inopportune moment,” said U.S. Navy Capt. John D. Wilshusen, commodore of MSC Far East in Singapore. “One of the strengths of the United States Navy has always been our ability to adapt in the face of rapid change, and find a way to accomplish our mission despite setbacks to the original plan.”
In order to meet the mission’s timeline, the Brunswick had to be re-routed from the Philippines and it arrived Guam, March 16, where the Fall River was berthed full of PP18 equipment.
Then began the feverish pace to exchange cargo between the two ships. Since the Fall River was already loaded with mission-required equipment, both ships had to be emptied out and the Brunswick loaded with the PP18-specific equipment.
“With the mission on the line, we were able to coordinate between six major organizations spanning more than 10,000 miles to swiftly evaluate the situation, develop a plan of action, put all the required support elements in place, and execute the plan in time to keep the original schedule,” said Wilshusen.
The evolution required the dismantling and rebuilding of the Adaptive Force Package (AFP) Village, a series of modules that were required by the mission. The AFP Village build-out normally take a week but was accomplished in three days to meet the PP18 timeline.
“The build included four office modules with communication equipment, a latrine and shower module, various shipping containers for dry storage, refrigeration units for cold/freezer storage, a water tank, and two gym modules,” said Navy Lt. John M. McGurk, AFP action officer, MSC Far East. “The team used heavy-lift forklifts and manual labor to get the modules into place on the Brunswick.”
A team of members from both vessels, MSC, Ship Support Unit Guam, Naval Base Guam, Commander Task Force 75’s Hatch Team from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion ONE (NCHB-1) and Amphibious Construction Battalion ONE worked around the clock to get the Brunswick mission ready and underway.
“At the end of the day, this event required people to roll up their sleeves and work long hours in the heat and humidity to meet the tasking,” said Wilshusen. “When we needed additional hands to meet the timeline, 13 Sailors from NCHB-1 joined the team on a day’s notice and became the critical enabler that allowed us to achieve what many thought was not possible. I’m happy to report that the ‘can-do’ spirit of our predecessors in the Greatest Generation is alive and well with our modern-day Sailors.”
Pacific Partnership 2018 consists of more than 800 U.S. and allied military personnel along with non-government organizations, working side-by-side with host nation counterparts to be better prepared for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.