Thursday, September 13, 2007

USNS Lewis and Clark Lives Up To Namesake

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua Cassatt, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/ Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) delivered supplies to coalition ships operating in the Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR) Sept. 6-12.

Lewis and Clark, the first ship of its class, spent three days in Bahrain loading supplies for cargo replenishment.

During a seven-day supply cycle, Lewis and Clark provided more than 500 pallets of cargo to USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Ponce (LPD 15), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS James E. Williams (DDG 95), USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and USS Denver (LPD 9).

Lewis and Clark typically resupplies between three to six ships per week. However, providing supplies to seven ships is not uncommon.

“It’s routine,” said Capt. Jim White, Lewis and Clark’s master. “Resupplying seven ships lies well within the capabilities of the ship. It’s not too much of a stretch for us.”

Lewis and Clark is a dry cargo/ammunition ship, meaning that it can interchange capabilities to meet either mission, White said. The current supply cycle is a dry cargo supply operation.

The amount of material offloaded was the most Lewis and Clark has ever delivered, said Cmdr. Robert Oakeley, Lewis and Clark Military Detachment officer in charge.

“We are under the command of Combined Task Force 53, and they have never had a ship of this size and capability,” Oakeley said. “We have a lot to offer in capability and capacity.”

The number of pallets recently delivered is nothing compared to the 4,900 that Lewis and Clark has the capacity to store on board, a reflection of the innovations and capabilities of the new Lewis and Clark-class supply ship.

“Lewis and Clark is the wave of the future of underway replenishment ships (UNREP),” White said. “This ship replaces three classes of UNREP ships, and it is going to be a common sight in years to come.”

Lewis and Clark, homeported in Norfolk, is part of Military Sealift Command (MSC) and the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG). It was delivered to MSC June 20, 2006.

It entered the CENTCOM AOR with the Enterprise CSG Aug. 1. The Enterprise CSG is in the region conducting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complement the counterterrorism and security efforts in regional nations’ littoral waters. Coalition forces also conduct MSO under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that commercial shipping and fishing can occur safely in the region.