By Sarah Burford, Military Sealift Command Pacific Public Affairs
The ship, which was christened May 5 in San Diego, honors Cesar Chavez, an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. He is well known for his use of non-violent tactics that made the farm workers' struggle a moral cause with nationwide support.
"This is an historic day for Military Sealift Command, as we accept into our fleet the last ship in the T-AKE program," said Capt. Sylvester Moore, commander, Military Sealift Command Pacific. "Like the 13 ships that came before it, USNS Cesar Chavez will be an important component in support of the United States Navy ships and missions around the world. Whether we are supporting an aircraft carrier or transporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies, the T-AKEs and all MSC underway replenishment ships bring to life the motto: MSC delivers," he said.
With a crew of 125 civil service mariners working for MSC and 11 U.S. Navy Sailors who provide operational support and supply coordination, the 689-foot long Chavez is the 14th and final of the dry cargo/ammunition ships and is slated for use by MSC's Combat Logistics Force, or CLF.
CLF ships deliver ammunition, food, fuel and other supplies to U.S. and allied ships at sea, enabling the Navy to maintain a worldwide forward presence. The first 11 dry cargo/ammunition ships are currently operating as part of MSC's Combat Logistics Force,
delivering vital fuel, equipment and supplies to Navy warships at sea. The remaining three ships the T-AKE class are expected to be assigned to maritime prepositioning squadrons, which strategically place combat cargo at sea for rapid delivery to warfighters ashore.
"The delivery of Chavez marks a significant milestone for MSC - we are now at full capacity with our dry-cargo and ammunition ships and stand ready to support a wide-range of Department of Defense requirements," said Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, commander, Military Sealift Command. "The T-AKEs, and the professional mariners who operate them, are a true testament to MSC's ability to operate forward and provide an unprecedented level of service and support to our warfighters worldwide," he said.
T-AKEs are the newest class of Combat Logistics Force ships built for MSC. They replace MSC's aging, single-mission supply ships such as Kilauea-class ammunition ships and Mars- and Sirius-class combat stores ships as they reach the end of their service lives.
MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, and strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.