USS VICKSBURG, At Sea (NNS) -- Guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69) performed a replenishment at sea (RAS) with Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Suppy (T-AOE 6), May 3.
A RAS can occur when two ships get close enough to transfer supplies and fuel while steaming. Vicksburg participates in a RAS approximately once a week.
"The importance of [RAS] cannot be overstated," said Lt. j.g. Shannon K. Bencs, food service officer aboard Vicksburg. "We take on parts, fuel, mail and food."
During the average RAS, Vicksburg takes on approximately $30,000 to $40,000 worth of food and approximately 1,400 pounds of mail.
"[A RAS] is also a great opportunity for us to offload plastic waste and broken parts," said Bencs. "We couldn't get by with just re-supplying from port visits."
Replenishments at sea are all-hands efforts that bring together Sailors on the ship that would normally not work together.
"For [a RAS] there has to be cross departmental coordination," said Ensign Michael E. Fitzgerald, 1st Lieutenant aboard Vicksburg. "The level of integration is most obvious when you see Sailors on the working party. You see all different people from all departments working together to get one job done."
Though the working party is an all-hands effort, the most experienced Sailors are present on the bridge to ensure Vicksburg and the supply ship are keeping track of each other's movements.
"There is a real science behind it," said Fitzgerald. "Course and speed must be monitored at all times to keep the ships from colliding. The skill and experience of Vicksburg Sailor's may make it look easy, but it's a tough job."
Though the job is tough no matter what role a Sailor may take, the benefits make it worth it for most Sailors.
"[A RAS] brings the crew together," said Operations Specialist Seaman Jose E. Rosas, who tracks the ship's course and speed during replenishments at sea. "The supplies and mail we get are important to us and increases ship morale overall. It keeps us connected to home and family and I think that is important to every Sailor aboard."
Vicksburg is on her final deployment and is currently operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
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