MSC Transports Marines, Equipment for Exercise in Philippines

Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Photo courtesy MSC

Military Sealift Command-chartered cargo ship MV Combi Dock III departed Subic Bay, Philippines, Oct. 30, carrying 460 pieces of U.S. Marine Corps equipment including Humvees, trucks, ambulances, firefighting vehicles, helicopters and supplies that were used during the recent amphibious landing exercise, or PHIBLEX, held in the Philippines Oct. 14-18.  The equipment is being returned to Marine Corps bases on Okinawa, Japan. 

MSC-chartered high-speed vessel HSV Westpac Express also participated in the exercise by transporting Marines and their equipment between Okinawa and the Philippines.

Since 2003, the U.S. Marine Corps and Armed Forces of the Philippines have conducted this bilateral PHIBLEX military training exercise to increase readiness and strengthen military ties. The exercise was conducted ashore and at sea and included the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Marine Aircraft Group 36, Combat Logistics Regiment 35 and USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group. The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit was embarked aboard Essex.  

This year's PHIBLEX was originally scheduled to run through Oct. 24, but was suspended Oct. 18 after typhoon Juan devastated parts of the Philippines' Luzon island.  At the request of the government of the Philippines, Marine Corps and Navy aircraft in the area for the exercise supported relief efforts Oct. 18 - 25, delivering more than 170,000 pounds of food and relief supplies donated by the Philippine government and the U.S. Agency for International Development to areas most affected by the typhoon. 

MSC chartered Combi Dock III to deploy and redeploy the Marines' cargo for the exercise. Combi Dock III, a combination roll-on/roll-off, lift-on/lift-off, and float-on/float-off heavy lift cargo ship, delivered the Marine Corps cargo to the Philippines in late September.

"Combi Dock is a very modern and unique ship in that it can load cargo in different ways," said Singapore-based Sealift Logistics Command Far East strategic sealift director Dennis Debraggio.  "The ship and its crew clearly showed they can handle the mission." 

For the redeployment, Combi Dock III arrived at Subic Bay just after midnight, Oct. 28.  Just hours later, the first piece of cargo was hoisted on board by one of the ship's cranes.  Steadily, Marine Corps vehicles, shipping containers and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters were lifted aboard. 

Before the ship could load, Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit staged the cargo at the Subic Bay container terminal where the equipment was washed and driven alongside the ship for loading. Marine pilots flew their six CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters to the pier where they were loaded onto Combi Dock's main deck.  All cargo was loaded on board by just after midnight Oct. 30, and the ship set sail before first light.  The ship will offload cargo at three ports in Okinawa, and then go off-hire.  

Westpac Express is a high-speed vessel used to transport Marines and equipment around the Western Pacific Ocean.  For this exercise, the ship made three trips between Okinawa and Subic Bay carrying more than 1,000 Marines and 500 tons of their cargo for use in the exercise.
"Within hours, this ship can deliver hundreds of Marines and tons of equipment virtually anywhere within the area of responsibility," said Westpac Express' civilian master Capt. Adam Parsons.  "That's exactly what this ship demonstrated during this exercise - it's ability to quickly and efficiently deliver Marines and their equipment where they are needed."  

The ship, capable of speeds up to 36 knots, is scheduled to redeploy Marines and equipment back to their base on Okinawa in early November.

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