By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua Cassatt, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs
USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10) conducted underway replenishments with nine U.S. ships June 1-3 in the Persian Gulf.
More than 865,000 gallons of jet fuel, 2.3 million gallons of diesel fuel, 560 pallets of food, ammunition and stores were transferred over the three-day period.
It was an undertaking that didn’t intimidate the crew of Bridge in the slightest.
"This is what we come out here for," said Chief Mate Tom Giudice, Bridge’s executive officer. "Give us as many ships as you can because that is our purpose out here."
For Bridge's civilian crew, taking on the challenge of keeping the ships supplied is how they contribute to maritime operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO).
"Our role is to keep the ships out here doing business without having to pull into port," said Gary Schmidt, assistant cargo mate. "Bridge has been doing this for a long time, and it is nice doing business out here with the Navy."
Bridge's embarked Helicopter Squadron Combatant (HSC) 23, conducted a vertical replenishment with USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), transporting pallets of supplies between the ships via helicopters.
Bridge conducted line-transfer replenishments with USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Hawes (FFG 53), USS Princeton (CG 59), USS Antietam (CG 54), USS O'Kane (DDG 77), USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47), during which Bridge used tethered lines and mechanical pulleys between it and the receiving ships to transfer the pallets. Fuel was transferred via extendable and retractable fuel lines.
"It really is commonplace for us to take on this kind of workload," said Capt. Jeffrey Siepert, Bridge’s master.
The crew of Bridge takes pride in being able to methodically carry out the challenge of supplying nine ships in three days. Efficiency is the name of the game for these merchant marines.
"It's all a big choreographed dance," said Siepert. "The crew has become so remarkably efficient, that if you walk out on deck during this event, you won't see anyone even speaking to each other. Instead, everyone knows what to do and how to do it right."
For Schmidt, the momentum of the work takes on a life of its own, and the job gets done.
"Once we get going, it's really smooth," Schmidt said. "We really get rolling with the work. It's nice to be a part of this team and this ship."
Bridge takes its role as a Navy supply vessel very seriously.
"Supplying the warfighters in the shortest, safest and most efficient amount of time is the goal," said Siepert. "At the end of the day, carriers are able to fly their aircraft, and ships are able to continue their coalition duties. That gives us an immense amount of satisfaction that we've done our part."
Bridge is a supply-class fast combat support ship operated
by Military Sealift Command. It entered the 5th Fleet AOO Feb. 19 in support of maritime operations.
Maritime operations help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts in regional nations’ littoral waters. Coalition forces also conduct maritime operations under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that commercial shipping and fishing can occur safely in the region.