USNS LEWIS AND CLARK, At Sea (NNS) -- USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) (LNC), crewed by civil service mariners, recently joined Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, greatly enhancing the group's capabilities to maintain forward presence while underway in support of counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
"USNS Lewis and Clark is an incredibly flexible and adaptable platform and is perfectly suited for this mission as the ship possesses the necessary capabilities to launch and recover aircraft and temporarily house suspected pirates and provides an afloat staging base to support CTF-151's current mission," said Capt. Bill McCarthy, master, USNS Lewis and Clark.
Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 is a multinational task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. CTF 151 was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.
In addition to providing a staging platform for the aircraft and related personnel assigned to CTF-151, the cargo and ammunition resupply ship also provides the task force a temporary holding facility for suspected pirates. Currently there are 16 suspected pirates on board the Military Sealift Command asset.
Embarked Marines ensure suspected pirates receive safe and humane care.
"Suspected pirates will receive three meals each day, clean clothes, the opportunity to shower and medical treatment if necessary," said McCarthy. "In addition, suspected pirates' religious rights will be respected. They will have the opportunity to observe their faith-based practices."
Lewis and Clark was a readily available asset as she was already operating in 5th Fleet providing logistics support to U.S. and coalition ships in theater when she was tasked to join the counterpiracy mission.
The ship - the first in its class -- is one of the newest logistics vessels in the fleet and provides underway replenishment of food, ammunition, fuel and other supplies to U.S. Navy and coalition ships at sea.
LNC joins USS Mahan (DDG 72) and USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), which make up CTF 151. Piracy is considered an international problem that requires an international solution, therefore, LNC and other members of the task force are working very closely with navies from more than 14 different nations to ensure free and secure use of the world's oceans by legitimate mariners.
"Although the crew of Lewis and Clark only had a short time to prepare for this mission, my crew has proudly stepped up to the challenge and opportunity to be a part of this very important mission that has global impact," said McCarthy.
The civil service mariners on board USNS Lewis and Clark are strictly responsible for the safe operation and navigation of the ship in her duties as a staging platform for CTF-151.
"The integration of the civilian mariners and embarked Navy and Marine Corps units has been extremely smooth," said McCarthy. "The Navy Ethos highlights the fact that we are professional Sailors and Civilians. On board Lewis and Clark right now, we have a very diverse and agile force conducting the counter-piracy mission."
Everyone knows their responsibilities and is working closely together to ensure safe and effective mission accomplishment," added McCarthy. "Each day, we learn more about one another and our capabilities to enhance our interoperability."
Lewis and Clark's support of CTF-151 anti-piracy operations as related to the broader role of noncombatant ships in the U.S. Navy is nothing new. U.S. merchant mariners have a long and storied history of providing direct support to U.S. military operations around the globe. From re-supplying Navy ships at-sea to delivering combat cargo to deployed troops in war zones, mariners have played an integral logistics support role in U.S. military operations for centuries.
"The Military Sealift Command and the U.S. Navy have a strong heritage of working together," said McCarthy.
"Although the counter-piracy mission may be new to some of us, civilian mariners and active-duty Sailors working together as part of military operations is not new."
As CTF 151 and coalition forces continue to ensure the safe flow of commerce and maritime security throughout the region, Lewis and Clark will be on station to ensure they are ready to respond at a moment's notice.
"By providing an afloat staging base for CTF 151, the embarked Navy and Marine Corps units are able to maintain a forward presence," said McCarthy. "Together, we are all working to maintain security and stability in the maritime environment so legitimate trade and commerce can continue to safely transit this very important corridor."
For more news from Combined Task Force 151, visit www.navy.mil/local/CTF-151/.