ABOARD USNS RAINIER, At Sea (NNS) -- USNS Ranier (T-AOE 7) continues to provide afloat support in January for Navy ships and aircraft underway in the Indian Ocean supporting Operation Unified Assistance, while providing direct relief in Sumatra.
The ship has had 32 "customers" alongside in the past 20 days.
"It's a multiple mission," said Capt. William Baldwin, Rainier's master. "There has been no lack of business for us."
Part of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group, Rainier, a fast-combat support ship, is providing replenishment at sea for French and Australian ships, in addition to those of the U.S. Navy.
Rainier services these ships by supplying them with the provisions and fuel required to stay on station. As other Military Sealift Command ships arrive on station, Rainier often receives humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) items for further distribution.
The pace can be hectic.
"Today we received 70 pallets of aid material from the (USNS) Niagara Falls," said Capt. (sel.) Jess V. Cant, Jan. 18. "We provided 44 of that to (USS) Shiloh this morning, 29 to (USS) Shoup, and we're going to deliver the last 28 to the (USS) Benfold this evening."
Rainier's embarked helicopter squadron, Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 11, Det. 2, has been delivering humanitarian relief supplies ashore.
"The only way to deliver the desperately needed food and water is by helicopter," said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Hayes of HC-11.
Loaded with as much HADR supplies as possible, helos from Rainier typically fly to Banda Aceh, the main logistics hub for relief supplies, and then delivers aid to Indonesian villages most in need. On return flights, they often are loaded with critically injured villagers seeking medical attention.
"Our helicopter is uniquely configured for cargo, so we can carry a lot more than the other aircraft," said Hayes. "We typically load up with 5,000 to 5,500 Pounds of rice, water, medical supplies and deliver them. Sometimes, we go straight to the villages."
Rainier is also operating as a ready deck for helicopter "lily pad" operations. As helicopters fly to different landing zones in Indonesia, available ships such as Rainier are stationed along the coast so that helicopters can leap-frog from ship to ship, stopping for fuel when required.
Rainier is one of Military Sealift Command's four largest and fastest combat logistics ships. Able to reach speeds up to 25 knots, Rainier has the speed to keep up with carrier strike groups. It rapidly replenishes Navy task forces and can carry more than 177,000 barrels of oil; 2,150 tons of ammunition; 500 tons of dry stores; and 250 tons of refrigerated stores. It receives petroleum products, ammunition, and stores from shuttle ships, and redistributes these items simultaneously to carrier strike group ships. Ranier carries two MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters, and has a crew of 160 civilian mariners and 28 Navy personnel.
For related news on Navy tsunami relief operations, visit the Focus on Tsunami Relief Operations page at www.navy.mil/local/tsunami.
For related news, visit the Logistics Group Western Pacific Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/clwp.