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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Civilian Ship Supports Operation Enduring Freedom

June 6, 2002

SS Cornhusker State arrived May 1 at Newport News, Va., after six months deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The civilian-crewed crane ship was the only ship of the Navy and Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force activated specifically to support the war in Afghanistan. The Ready Reserve Force is a fleet of 76 militarily useful ships maintained in reduced operating status by the Maritime Administration near potential load ports around the country. When activated, these civilian-crewed ships come under the operational control of the Navy's Military Sealift Command. Cornhusker State was activated last November to transport and provide floating storage for ammunition to sustain the war effort. Cornhusker State moved 595 20-foot container equivalents and 650 square feet of equipment while activated. The ship was on site to augment the ammunition stores already available in Diego Garcia aboard afloat prepositioning ship MV Maj. Bernard F. Fisher. Fisher off-loaded 373 ammunition containers in late October in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to support U.S. Air Force planes participating in Operation Enduring Freedom. MV A1C William H. Pitsenbarger, another MSC ammunition ship, joined Fisher and Cornhusker State in Diego Garcia Feb. 15 with 655 ammunition containers plus about 300 additional containers to replace the ammunition off-loaded from Fisher.

Cornhusker State also used her shipboard cranes to assist MV Maersk Alaska -- a container ship under charter to MSC whose cranes had been removed for an exercise. In early March, Cornhusker State used her cranes to lift 139 containers of ammunition from Maersk Alaska to Cornhusker State. Cornhusker State then used her cranes to load 78 containers of retrograde ammunition from shore depots in Diego Garcia to Maersk Alaska.

"We all worked together and, as evidenced by our accomplishments,Cornhusker State's mission was a success," said Capt. John Ahearn, master of Cornhusker State. "I have only praise to offer for the people involved: the Maritime Administration which maintains this and other ships of the Ready Reserve Fleet, Military Sealift Command which was our operational commander during the deployment, and the U.S. merchant mariners who crewed Cornhusker State's decks." Four other RRF ships are currently serving in MSC's Prepositioning Program, prepositioning equipment and supplies near Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Guam in the western Pacific Ocean. These ships normally serve and were not activated specifically to support Operation Enduring Freedom. Tanker SS Chesapeake and break-bulk cargo ship SS Cape Jacob are stationed in Diego Garcia. Tanker SS Petersburg and crane ship SS Gopher State are stationed in Guam. Two other RRF ships -- aviation maintenance logistics ships SS Curtis and SS Wright -- are also part of the Prepositioning Program, but they are maintained in the U.S. in reduced operating status, ready to sail within five days. Military Sealift Command, the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense, operates about 110 ships daily around the world.MSC ships preposition equipment and supplies near potential hot spots around the globe; provide at-sea logistics to support the Navy fleet;serve as seagoing platforms for special missions; and provide surge sealift of military equipment and supplies in wartime and peacetime.

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