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.
Sacagaweaâ€™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. Itâ€™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 Sacagaweaâ€™s crew.
â€œThe crew and the officers have done a fantastic job getting it ready, taking over the ship and sailing it to the East Coast.â€
â€œTheyâ€™ve exceeded my expectations at every turn,â€ McCarthy concluded.
Active-duty Sailors also contribute to the shipâ€™s mission with their years of experience in rate that must be at journeyman level or above to qualify.
â€œThere are no shore duty rotations,â€ explained Frank Cunningham, class manager for the T-AKE vessels.
â€œThe crew is out at sea three to four months with 30 days leave before being assigned to a new ship. The shipâ€™s crew is small; there is no room for strikers. Everyone must know their job.â€
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 shipâ€™s communications liaison, said, â€œThe military detachment (MILDET) is a tight-knit group and the camaraderie in the MILDET is just awesome.â€
â€œBeing able to be close and being able to take care of everybody, I think thatâ€™s the best part about it,â€ Watson concluded.