News: Marines hone amphibious offloading capabilities
Story by Lance Cpl. Matt Myers
GWANYANG PORT, South Korea - Marines and sailors executed a maritime prepositioning force ship offload at Gwangyang Port, Republic of Korea, during exercise Freedom Banner 2014 March 10 - 13.
This year’s annual Freedom Banner exercise focused on exercising maritime prepositioning ship offloading capabilities in support of amphibious assault exercise Ssang Yong 14 and the Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise while also serving as a tribute to the maturity of the relationship between the Republic of Korea and the U.S.
“The way we’ve designed Freedom Banner 14 is to simulate how we would come to support the Republic of Korea during a time of crisis,” said Col. Walter T. Anderson, the G-4 assistant chief of staff for the III Marine Expeditionary Force Command Element. “We’ve flown in elements that would prepare the camp to receive the ship, its personnel and equipment which will be used in follow-on exercises.”
The USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo maritime prepositioning force ship arrived at the Gwangyang port March 9 laden with Marines, sailors and approximately 1,000 tons supplies and equipment.
“The process of the offload is classified as reception, staging, onward movement and integration,” said Anderson. “The vessel comes into port and begins discharging all its assets which are then matched with their respective units. After that, the supplies are moved forward into arrival and assembly areas before they are finally integrated into onwards exercises.”
The offloading of the equipment required a combined effort between ROK military and civilian personnel as well as U.S. Marines and sailors who worked an average of 10 hours every day.
“This is truly a Navy-Marine Corps team effort,” said Navy Capt. Leonard V. Remias, commander of Maritime Prepositioning Squadron Three, Military Sealift Command for the Far East. “It took a navy cargo handling battalion, approximately 30 to 40 mariners and 50 Marines from the landing force support party just to offload the equipment from the ship.”
While some of the equipment was simply driven off the Bobo and onto the pier, other larger items required multiple cranes to safely maneuver the assets away from the ship.
“We’ve offloaded various trucks, forklifts, Humvees, tanks, howitzers and cargo containers which will go on to support exercises being conducted in the Republic of Korea,” said Remias. “Also offloaded were improved Navy lighterage systems, which are floating piers which can be used to get equipment from the ship to shore in the event of a compromised fixed port facility.”
All the equipment offloaded from the Bobo went through a carefully coordinated system of procedures to ensure they arrived at the staging area safely.
“We had a lot of systems that allowed us to generate in transit visibility during the various points of movement from the pier-side offload, to the drivers pool, to the disassociation lot and staging area where the gaining commands will acquire their gear,” said Maj. David I. Eickenhorst, the Freedom Banner operations officer and G-3 future operations officer with III MEF Command Element. “We were able to document serial numbers, scan and record the transfer of equipment, and generate accurate, real-time updates on the location of moving assets to the combined operations center.”
The bottom line for Freedom Banner is rapid deployment of equipment in support of additional exercises that allow the ROK and U.S. to exercise combined readiness and interoperability, according to Eickenhorst.
“Freedom Banner was possible because of our working relationship with the Republic of Korea, and more specifically, the Military Sealift office of Korea,” said Remias. “The offload went smoothly and I think it was a good opportunity to flex our MPF muscles and prove to the nation and our partners that together we have a solid standing presence.”