The U.S. Navy will officially name its newest prepositioning ship USNS
Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat
, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003, during a ceremony at
Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Fla.
Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Atlantic, Lt. Gen. Martin R.
Berndt, is the ceremony's principal speaker. Margaret Taylor, wife of Rep. Gene
Taylor of Mississippi, will serve as ship's sponsor and break a bottle of champagne
across the bow to officially name the ship.
The ship is named in honor of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat
(1947-1967), a native of Moselle, Miss. On Aug. 11, 1967, Wheat heroically
sacrificed his life to save the lives of two other Marines. After warning his
fellow Marines when he unintentionally triggered a concealed anti-personnel mine,
Wheat valiantly hurled himself upon the mine, absorbing the impact of the explosion
with his own body.
Corporal Wheat's unselfish action saved his comrades from certain injury
and possible death. Wheat's other awards include: the Navy Commendation
Purple Heart with one Gold Star, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service
Medal with two Bronze Stars, Vietnam Military Merit Medal, Vietnam Gallantry Cross
with Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
A non-combatant vessel, the Wheat will be operated by a private company
under contract to the Navy's Military Sealift Command, with a crew of 31 commercial
mariners as a part of the Maritime Prepostioning Force (MPF) program.
The Wheat is capable of carrying about 200,000 square feet of
roll-on/roll-off and container cargo. The ship will be prepositioned to augment the
existing MPF assets and will carry additional capabilities such as an expeditionary
airfield, a naval construction battalion, and a fleet hospital. The ship is 864
feet in length, has a beam of 98 feet, a draft of 35 feet, displaces 50,059 long
tons fully loaded, and can sustain speeds of more than 20 knots.