VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command (MSC) large, medium-speed, roll/on, roll/off ship USNS Mendonca (T-AKR 303)was the primary cargo platform for a joint logistics over the shore exercise June 16-20, off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va.
During the exercise, 550 military personnel demonstrated and practiced the U.S. military's ability to transport equipment and supplies to shore from a cargo ship at sea, even when no useable port facilities exist.
The exercise took place on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
Joint logistics over the shore, or JLOTS, is a method of transporting rolling stock such as tanks and trucks as well as containerized military or humanitarian relief cargo from a ship at sea to shore using Army and Navy motorized and non-motorized barges, called lighterage, to stage and transport the cargo. In addition to motorized lighterage, Army watercraft including landing craft utilities and logistics support vessels are also used to transport cargo between ship and shore.
The U.S. Army's 7th Sustainment Brigade located at Fort Eustis, Va., was the exercise's host command. Other units involved included the Army's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's 597th Transportation Battalion, and the U.S. Navy's Cargo Handling Battalion 1 from Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Va., Cheatham Annex.
During the five-day exercise, the participants safely and efficiently uploaded and discharged 179 pieces of rolling stock and containers to and from Mendonca via lighterage. Ashore, the cargo was either offloaded directly onto the beach, or onto a temporary pier constructed specifically for the exercise.
According to civilian Capt. Michael Murphy, Mendonca's master, the Army and Navy cargo handling experts all did a superb job of safely and efficiently getting cargo to and from the ship.
"At the height of cargo operations, high winds and rain provided a challenging environment, but the 31 Army and 23 Navy professionals assigned aboard the ship did an excellent job moving cargo quickly and safely down the ramp to the waiting discharge facility," said Murphy.
"Mendonca's crew also played an important role - they assisted on the bridge and on the deckplates to ensure a successful outcome." The 950-foot long Mendonca is operated by a crew of 30 civilian mariners working for a private company under charter to MSC.
The value of joint logistics over the shore operations was recently demonstrated during the international humanitarian response to the earthquake in Haiti Jan. 12 that not only leveled the capital of Port-au-Prince, but also the port infrastructure.
After that devastating event, the need for medical and humanitarian supplies, food, water, and heavy construction equipment was overwhelming, and the most efficient way to move the vast amounts of cargo and equipment to the shore was via JLOTS. Ten MSC-operated vessels supported JLOTS operations in Haiti, including two maritime prepositioning ships, both owned by MSC; two ships that were activated from the Maritime Administration's (MARAD) ready reserve force and under MSC's operational control; one MARAD high-speed ferry; and five chartered vessels.
In less than one month, more than 1,000 20-foot containers of cargo and more than 170 military vehicles plus food, water, and fuel were delivered to Haiti to sustain the emergency responders and civilians on shore - all delivered by JLOTS.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces, conduct specialized missions, and replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea.
For more news from Military Sealift Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/MSC/.