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Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)

USNS Robert E. Peary and NAVELSG Join Forces to Carryout Proof-of-Concept Testing

by LaShawn Sykes, USN Military Sealift Command
08 February 2024 NORFOLK, Va. (Feb. 7, 2024) – Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5) and the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG), in January, joined forces to successfully conduct 1,456 cargo and ordnance transfer lifts, with the Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The Net Explosive Weight (NEW) of the combined transfers was more than a thousand tons.

Through collaboration and coordination between MSC and NAVELSG, a Proof of Concept (POC) idea formed, with the primary objective to integrate 10 NAVELSG Sailors with 116 MSC Civil Service Mariners (CIVMARS) aboard Robert E. Peary in order to support a critical mission afloat ordnance operation with CVN 78 in the Atlantic Ocean.

Leaders from both MSC and NAVELSG expressed great enthusiasm for the opportunity to forge a partnership that extends into the future, said MSC’s CLF Fleet Sustainment Division Director Rick Adside. “This partnership addresses critical manning shortfalls of CIVMARs onboard MSC Combat Logistics Force (CLF) ships, while providing opportunities for NAVESLG to enhance its existing Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) in support of CLF fleet sustainment mission sets.”

Although NAVELSG Sailors have long supported MSC cargo operations ashore, this level of integration, marked a significant milestone that promises both professional and operational benefits for both MSC and NAVELSG, Adside said. “MSC gains the ability to better account for in-transit ordnance, while NAVELSG acquires additional proficiency equivalent to MSC’s Cargo Afloat Rig Teams (CART), augmenting their existing AMMO/QUAL Certification program. This POC is also noteworthy because it contributes to a more seamless integration experience for both CIVMAR and NAVELSG personnel.”

The success of this proof-of-concept testing will serve as a springboard for future partnering opportunities between NAVELSG and MSC, Adside said.

Robert E. Peary’s shipmaster Capt. Andrew Lindey deemed the proof of concept testing a huge success. “I know this because when I asked the deck leadership if they would like to have the Sailors onboard for future ordnance events there was a resounding YES! This was a great educational opportunity for the Sailors and a huge manpower help for the ship.”

Ten NAVELSG Sailors Augment Robert E. Peary’s Cargo Team

Forty MSC CIVMARs from Robert E. Peary’s cargo team and 10 NAVELSG Sailors, assigned temporarily to the vessel to help strengthen the cargo team’s capability, worked around the clock for 72 hours, in January, in order to complete the afloat ordnance operations with USS Gerald R. Ford, Lindey said.

“Both U.S. Navy Sailors and MSC CIVMARs worked hand-in-hand the entire download. The Sailors from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) One had great attitudes and actively looked for ways to help! Without the Sailors from NAVELSG, it would have taken longer for the CIVMARs to get the job done.”

Before joining Robert E. Peary’s cargo team, the 10 NAVELSG Sailors first received specialized training from the ship’s crew. In accordance with MSC’s Safety Management System, the Sailors trained in several critical areas: cargo weapons elevator operations, ordnance banding, ordnance blocking and bracing, and ordnance accounting and sentencing. Upon completion of their training and while the ship was enroute to the rendezvous position of the aircraft carrier, Robert E. Peary was tasked to refuel two Navy ships: USS McFaul (DDG 74) and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116). These two events, executed by the CIVMARs, gave the Sailors a front row seat on how to conduct underway replenishments at sea, properly and safely, Lindey said.

REP - CVN Cargo and Ordnance Transfer Lifts

The transfer lifts between Robert E. Peary and Gerald R. Ford took place over three days in January, with more than 1,299 ordnance and 157 cargo transfer lifts completed. The transfer details are as follows:

Day 1: 403 Vertical Replenishments
Day 2: 418 Vertical Replenishments
Day 2: 216 Connected Replenishments
Day 3: 262 Vertical Replenishments - ordnance
Day 3: 157 Vertical Replenishments - cargo

“I am always proud of the Robert E. Peary crew because I know they put their hearts into their work, but I am even more proud of how they took the Navy Sailors into their team and made them apart of the crew.”

CLF ships and MSC

Robert E. Peary is one of 14 fleet ordnance and dry cargo ships that are part of MSC's Combat Logistics Force (CLF) inventory. CLFs are the supply lines to U.S. Navy ships while at sea. CLF ships provide virtually everything Navy ships need including fuel, food, fleet ordnance, dry cargo, spare parts, mail, and other supplies.

CLF ships enable the Navy fleet to remain at sea and combat ready for extended periods. In addition to U.S. Navy ships, CLF ships also resupply international partners and allies operating in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

"In peacetime or conflict, amidst the ever-changing landscape of global affairs, America’s Navy remains a successful and highly impactful global force. When called upon, it swiftly responds to and supports world events. Military Sealift Command (MSC) plays a vital role in providing essential sustainment to warships, enabling the fleet to meet its mission objectives, including the safe handling and execution of transitional ordnance from deploying and redeploying ships," Adside said.