News: Maritime prepositioning ships give Marines Asia-Pacific advantage
Story by Lance Cpl. Matt Myers
GWANGYANG, Republic of Korea – U.S. Marines and sailors completed maritime prepositioning force loading activities April 16 at Gwangyang Port, Republic of Korea, during exercise Freedom Banner 2014.
Freedom Banner is part of Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise 2014, an umbrella exercise which began March 10 and extended through April 17.
The exercise is centered on MPF ship offloading procedures, which prepares U.S. Marines for the actions necessary to properly respond to a wartime or disaster-relief scenario in the Republic of Korea while strengthening ties between the ROK and U.S. Marines.
“For the final backload, we had planned a three-day loading phase,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Aaron J. Ward, the MPF chief with G-4, supply and logistics, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “The plan was 130 pieces the first day and 80 for every additional day. Based on the hard work of the Marines and sailors, and the experience they’ve gained since the beginning of the exercise, we completed loading in two days.”
During the final backload onto the USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo, ROK civilian contractors and U.S. service members loaded 338 principle end items of military equipment onto the ship that were used in amphibious assault exercise Ssang Yong 14.
Since the beginning of the exercise, the service members involved in the MPF processes conducted multiple loading and offloading evolutions which helped refine their skills to operate at a higher caliber, according to Ward, a Kent City, Mich., native.
“We really wanted to get this last load done safely and efficiently,” said Ward. “We started early in the morning and worked through breakfast and lunch, and were loading two decks inside the ship at a time. It went extremely well and just by looking around and seeing everyone’s faces I think we’re all proud of how smooth it was.”
The performance of the Marines and sailors throughout the final loading showed the importance of the event in developing their skills, according to Col. Walter T. Anderson, the assistant chief of staff with G-4, supply and logistics, III MEF.
“A large portion of the Marines here haven’t done anything like this before,” said Anderson, a Cove City, N.C., native. “Now these service members who have been exposed to the detail of these MPF processes can use this knowledge to their advantage in the future, and, as a whole, increase the expeditionary effectiveness of the U.S. Marine Corps.”
Freedom Banner focused on expeditionary offloading and training, and demonstrated operational capabilities, according to Maj. David I. Eickenhorst, the Freedom Banner 14 arrival, assembly, and operations group exercise officer with III MEF.
“This year’s Freedom Banner exercise sends a strategic message, more so than in previous years because of the size of the exercise and its conjunction with exercise Ssang Yong 14,” said Eickenhorst, a Houston, Texas, native. “It represents our capability to do opposed-force entry, and that lets any potential adversaries in the region know that the U.S. is committed to a strong alliance with the Republic of Korea.”
MPF operations are a significant asset to the U.S. military’s capabilities, strengthening the bonds and defense of the two nations by sharing techniques with one another, according to Eickenhorst.
“The U.S. is the only country with this MPF capability,” said Eickenhorst. “(U.S. Marines) coming to our South Korean brothers and teaching them how to perfect MPF operations and how to execute amphibious assaults shows our commitment to them. This is a partnership forged in blood from the very beginning, and it’s good to show them time hasn’t changed that.”