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Press Release

MSC PAO 98-31
July 31, 1998
For more information, contact:
Marge Holtz or Dan Philbin
(202) 685-5055

USNS Saturn home after hard days' work

The combat stores ship USNS Saturn (T-AFS 10) returned home to Norfolk, Va., July 24, in the daunting shadow of America's newest aircraft carrier, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), a cogent reminder that even the metropolis-sized aircraft carrier must be properly supplied in order to assure mission readiness.

During her six months deployed, Saturn traversed the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Gulf. Port visits included stops at Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, and Manama, Bahrain.

Saturn, operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, is part of the Navy's essential, but less visible combat logistics force.

Though unarmed, non-combatants, MSC ships are not immune to the constant dangers posed to American forces operating in the Middle East. Threats of terrorism confined Saturn's crew to their ship during more than one Arabian Gulf liberty call.

The majority of Saturn's deployment entailed strengthening the U.S. commitment to multinational operations aimed at Saddam Hussein, such as Southern Watch and Vigilant Sentinel, and the United Nations' maritime interdiction efforts.

Along with embarked Helicopter Support Squadron 8, Detachment 6, Saturn replenished ships of the Nimitz, Independence, George Washington, and John C. Stennis Battle Groups, as well as those of the Tarawa and Guam Amphibious Readiness Groups.

Sailors on board the Navy's combatant ships look forward to the arrival of Saturn, not only for the myriad supplies and mail from home she brings, but also for the break her deliveries provide from the tense monotony of life in a potential combat zone.

Unlike their military counterparts, the crews of MSC ships are mostly civilian mariners, known as CIVMARS. Saturn sails with 107 CIVMARS, and a 44-personnel military detachment. Twenty-seven uniformed Navy personnel make up HELSUPPRON 8, Detachment 6. Supplying the Navy's deployed combatant forces is no mean feat. MSC's combat stores ships are likened to floating supermarkets, carrying virtually every type of food or supply necessary to keeping U.S. Naval forces ready for action.

It takes more than bullets, bayonets, and other such sundry items to maintain an effective fighting force. With a gross cargo capacity of 12,400 tons, Saturn supplied, among other items, hamburger patties (382,000 lbs.), french fries (94,000 lbs.), eggs (4,584,000), and soda (28,000 cases).

Saturn receives long and varied lists of desired materials from U.S. Navy ships in their cruise area then assembles and delivers customized pallets of cargo suited to each. During this tour, Saturn took 22,266 supply requests, worth more than $13 million. She replenished 167 ships and shore stations, providing over 8,240 pallets of cargo -- most of this in daytime temperatures exceeding 110 degrees.

Working around the clock, Saturn delivered approximately 17 million pounds of materials. Getting supplies to the customer, or underway replenishment, is accomplished a variety of ways. The easiest is in-port replenishment, or INREP, relies on trucks to deliver cargo to the customer while the ship is in port. In Saturn's case, some of her INREP material was trucked across 150 miles of desert. Another mode of delivery is vertical replenishment, or VERTREP, transferring supplies to the customer using a helicopter. HELSUPPRON 8, Det. 6, conducted VERTREP missions to deliver more than 44 percent of Saturn's goods.

By far, the most thrilling method of transfer is connected replenishment, or CONREP, whereby lines -- or hoses if fuel is the cargo -- link Saturn with the receiving ship. The material is transferred across the connecting lines, above the water, while both ships continue sailing, side-by-side. It is not uncommon for both ships to steam within 100 feet of each other during CONREP operations. Using this method, Saturn is capable of replenishing two ships at the same time.

Nothing, however, can match the anticipation of knowing the next stop is home. "Everyday brings a different level of excitement," recalled Lt. Cmdr. Bob Scwaneke, USN, the officer in charge of Saturn's military detachment.

"It took about nine days to transit the Atlantic Ocean," Schwaneke continued. "The first two or three days went pretty quickly, but then it seemed that the closer you got to home, the longer it took to get there."

Welcome home, Saturn.