USNS Sacagawea Arrives in Norfolk

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Casandra Newell, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Atlantic

USNS Sacagawea, the latest in a line of Dry Cargo Ammunition Ships (T-AKE 2), arrived at its new homeport, Naval Station Norfolk, May 11. T-AKE 2 ships are replacing the Kilauea class (T-AE 26), Mars class (T-AFS 1) and Sirius class (T-AO 187) to combine the services of ammunition and cargo delivery to U.S. Navy ships at sea and in foreign ports. Sacagawea’s crew is comprised of 11 active duty Sailors serving with more than 100 civil service merchant mariners. Their primary mission is to carry dry cargo, ammunition and fuel. It’s a multiproduct ship that will combine the functions of combat logistics store ship vessels (AFS class) and ammunition ships (T-AE class).

Capt. George McCarthy, the merchant mariner commanding officer, described his experience sailing with Sacagawea’s crew. “The crew and the officers have done a fantastic job getting it ready, taking over the ship and sailing it to the East Coast.” “They’ve exceeded my expectations at every turn,” McCarthy concluded. Active-duty Sailors also contribute to the ship’s mission with their years of experience in rate that must be at journeyman level or above to qualify. “There are no shore duty rotations,” explained Frank Cunningham, class manager for the T-AKE vessels. “The crew is out at sea three to four months with 30 days leave before being assigned to a new ship. The ship’s crew is small; there is no room for strikers. Everyone must know their job.” Many Sailors experience a noticeable difference working on board a USNS ship as opposed to a USS vessel. Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Jennifer Watson, the ship’s communications liaison, said, “The military detachment (MILDET) is a tight-knit group and the camaraderie in the MILDET is just awesome.” “Being able to be close and being able to take care of everybody, I think that’s the best part about it,” Watson concluded.

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