Merchant Mariners Honored for Supporting Sealift Operations

Thursday, June 19, 2003
In recognition of their patriotic service during Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, crewmembers of the SS Wright were honored today in Baltimore by presentation of the Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal. The SS Wright and two other ships homeported in Baltimore--the Cape Washington and the Cape Wrath--provided sealift support for U.S. military operations in Iraq. All three ships belong to the Ready Reserve Force (RRF), a fleet of 68 ships owned by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Michael P. Jackson recognized the crew's achievements along with General John W. Handy, Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command. The U.S. Transportation Command provides air, land and sea transportation for the Department of Defense in time of peace and time of war. The Department of Transportation supported this mission with a total of 40 RRF ships participating in the war effort. "The maritime community has served America with great distinction during every major crisis in our Nation’s history, and the mariners who crew the ships are the cornerstone of this effort," said Mr. Jackson. "From the Revolutionary War, through both World Wars, the Korean War and up to today, our mariners have willingly defended and served this nation with enthusiasm and valor." Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medals are awarded to U.S. Merchant Mariners serving aboard U.S.-flag ships in support of operations involving American and allied military forces. Thirty-four crewmembers served aboard the SS Wright during the sealift operation. An Aviation Logistics Support ship, the SS Wright provided rapid and dedicated sealift for employment of an U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Activity. This mission included transporting a helicopter platform, a complete repair shop, and equipment for fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. Some 300 Marine Corps personnel operated from the ship during the deployment, providing service and repair in support of the Marine Aviation Combat Element. American merchant mariners have answered the call to support U.S. military forces since colonial times--traveling into harm's way to transport materiel for the armed forces. During the War in Iraq, Ready Reserve Force ships were crewed by U.S. merchant mariners who volunteered for this potentially hazardous duty. Not only volunteering to deploy into the war zone on unarmed ships, they also volunteered to receive anthrax and smallpox inoculations to protect them against possible biological weapon attacks. In all, more than 5,000 U.S. merchant mariners participated in these operations, including 83 midshipmen from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The Department of Transportation is honoring all RRF mariners upon return to the United States, and will continue to honor other ships and crews as they arrive.

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