Story by SA Carlos Hopper, Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia
Sailors from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 1, 8, 11 and 13, Assault Craft Unit 1 and Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 gathered on the island atoll of Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory Nov. 11-16.
Sailors worked alongside U.S. merchant marines aboard the Military Sealift Command (MSC) 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo-class maritime prepositioning ship USNS PFC Dewayne T. Williams (T-AK-3009) and Bob Hope-class roll on roll off vehicle cargo ship USNS Seay (T-AKR 302) pre-staged lighterage during an Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) training exercise.
Led by Commander, Task Force (CTF) 75, the INLS training mission is preparing service members and their MSC counterparts for the upcoming joint cargo handling exercise Native Fury 2020. The purpose of this exercise is to enable military personnel to move large equipment such as tanks, Humvees and other vehicles, all the way down to supplies from ships at sea to the shore.
Capt. Eric Correll, commanding officer, CTF 75/Navy Expeditionary Command Pacific, said that the exercise benefits Sailors and civilian mariners to be able to fall together at a moment’s notice to conduct humanitarian assistance or disaster relief around the globe.
“Diego Garcia provides us some protected waters to be able to conduct this training at our own pace,” said Correll about using the island to conduct the INLS training. “So that we can take the senior Sailors and the junior Sailors, those with experience and those without, and put them together to do a lot of reps and sets together.”
During the exercise, the Sailors placed connecting rods on the lighterage and lowered them into the lagoon using high performance slings and two-inch shackles. It was a team effort, with Sailors guiding the lighterage off the ship using tight lines.
“They also brought out reserve detachments,” said Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Luke Rosco, ship supervisor for NCHB 13. “So us reservists can get training in real-world instream operations that we don’t necessarily get when we go to different command islands.”
Rosco also explained that in conjunction with practicing with the INLS, both the active and reserve Sailors will be working with the same vessels, as well as working with NCHB 1 and the MSC ships when Native Fury 2020 kicks off.
“The actual goal is not only preparation for Native Fury from the active side,” continued Rosco. “But training for the reserve side on these instream operations so they [Sailors and mariners] can assimilate more into these operations.”
Correll said the decades of experience that the civilian mariners of MSC possess has been a tremendous asset to the exercise.
Sailors were paired up with the mariners in the exercise so they could learn from one another.
“There was one of the crane operators, and in talking to this man, what he had to say really stuck with me,” said Explosive Ordnance Disposal Master Chief Richard Straney, Command Master Chief CTF 75/ Navy Expeditionary Command Pacific. “He told me, ‘the satisfaction of being able to work with your Sailors and allow for that interoperability and get that practice to enable this [INLS] capability is my reward for doing this.’”
CTF 75 provides expeditionary combat capabilities in the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet area of responsibility. CTF 75 is capable of providing the fleet with diverse expeditionary warfighting capabilities that are combat-ready and able to deploy anywhere in U.S. 7th Fleet in response to any contingency. The Navy’s expeditionary forces exist first and foremost to support the fleet’s warfighting operations and are the Navy’s sea-to-shore interface.