Posted 10/09/98 08:51:21 PM --- More MARFORPAC news articles

The MV Williams stopped of Oahu recently and gave Hawaii Marines a chance to check out the Corps' MPF concept up close

Photo by Lance Cpl. Dustin Senger

(high resolution photos attached at end of article.)

By Sgt. Melinda Weathers

CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii (Sep 20) -- The MV Williams, which is one of 13 cargo ships that belong to the Marine Corps' Maritime Prepositioning Force, arrived off Oahu recently on it's way to Guam, allowing Marines here and at Kaneohe Bay a chance to tour MV Williams and learn more about maritime prepositioning.

The MV Williams, which supports the III Marine Expeditionary Force, operates out of Guam and Saipan, and moves from port to port in many allied nations of Asia throughout the year, according to Donald A. Tierney, MV Williams' captain and civilian employee with the American Overseas Marine Corporation (AMSEA).

The MPF's mission is to support the rapid deployment of Marine forces by providing mobile, long-term storage of equipment and supplies near areas of potential trouble. When trouble arises -- such as Operation Desert Storm or Restore Hope in Somalia -- these ships can respond immediately to provide rapid deployment forces with critical sustaining support.

Before the MPF program was implemented in 1983 when the Military Sealift Command leased the 13 ships, Marines could deploy only as fast as their equipment could be packed and transported. Sometimes that created a time lapse and Marines had to fight without all of their equipment. Now with the forward presence of the MPF squadrons, the equipment is always ready to go at a moments notice.

The MPF concept calls for Marines and Sailors to fly into a secured airfield to link up with the MPF ships. More than 17,000 Marines and Sailors can be flown in on fewer than 250 aircraft sorties. If the equipment on the ships had to be flown in with the Marines and Sailors, it would take more than 3,000 sorties.

"This is a great learning (opportunity) for the Marines to actually see the capabilities of the ship and to understand the schematics of the ship," said CWO-3 George Wooten, production control officer with the aviation support element at MCBH, Kaneohe Bay. "For a majority of the Marines, this is the first time they've been on a ship like this," he added. Marines touring the ship were from various units, such as HMT-301, HMH-463, and HMH-362.

Currently, the ship is staffed by 31 civilians. The staff form only part of the team needed to deploy cargo, said Tierney. Periodically, through real-world operations and exercises such as Tandem Thrust and Foal Eagle, various Marine and Navy units work together to practice off-loads.

"The MV Williams is 672 feet long and holds about 46,000 tons of cargo. We have about 700 pieces of vehicular equipment including tanks, ambulances, (trucks) and road graters, and other supplies like fuel, ammunition, and food rations," said Tierney. "The ships have temperature and humidity controlled spaces for long-term storage and preservation of the cargo," he added.

"The MV Williams is one of four ships that comprise the Maritime Prepositioning Squadron 3, and the entire squadron can supply about 17,000 Marines," Tierney added.

During operations, an off-load prepositioning party of Marines and Sailors is flown onto the ship to help prepare the gear for off-load. "We can unload the cargo with or without pier facilities in sea conditions up to six or seven feet waves," he said.

During Desert Storm, the MV Williams stayed in Saudi Arabia for eight months. "Sadaam had invaded Kuwait around Aug. 2, and all the prepositioning squadrons got the call and were there by Aug. 24. By Sept. 1, we were able to completely (supply and support) 35,000 Marines and Sailors," Tierney said.

The effectiveness of the MPF concept has even gained the attention of the U.S. Army. The Army has and researched and modeled a similiar MPF program. "One of the real stars of the deployment to the Persian Gulf was the Marine Corps' MPF program. The delivery of the first MPF squadron yielded the first U.S. heavy combat power available in Saudi Arabia," according to a Senate Armed Services Committee report dated July 19, 1991.

"The military needs a forward presence and from a logistics standpoint, we are that presence," said Tierney.

After leaving Oahu, the MV Williams is headed back to Guam and will soon participate in exercise Freedom Banner in Korea.