MANAMA, Bahrain - As the lines are thrown over for mooring at the Port of Djibouti, Military Sealift Command's dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5) wraps up another underway period providing replenishment to U.S. Navy and Coalition ships working the counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa.
Nearing the end of an eight-month deployment to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), the Peary crew of more than 120 civil service mariners and 11 U.S. Navy Sailors have provided food, cargo, mail and millions of gallons of fuel to U.S. and Coalition naval ships.
"Today, we're wrapping up our latest cycle," said civil service mariner Capt. Gregory Horner, Master of Peary. "We've gone into Djibouti, loaded cargo for customers at sea - food and fuel for ships and aircraft. We'll go back into Djibouti to start the next cycle. It's like a round robin."
While at first glance, Peary's operations could almost be mistaken for the movie "Groundhog Day," where the same day is repeated over and over until the main character gets it right, nothing could be further from the truth.
On Peary, every day presents new challenges in accommodating customer ships'
mission priorities, while still ensuring they receive the fuel, food and cargo they need. Aboard Peary, they have to get it right every day.
Flexibility has proven to be the key to Peary's success.
"These ships are conducting counter-piracy operations and we have to be flexible with them and work through their schedules," said Horner. "We have a job to do, we like our job, and it's nice to be able to support the Navy in counter-piracy operations."
The last week at sea for Peary was typical - it was busier than some, but not as busy as others, according to civil service mariner Third Officer John Akerson. Peary saw a total of eight ships, including one aircraft carrier, three guided missile destroyers, one guided missile cruiser, two Military Sealift Command ships and one Coalition ship. Peary conducted vertical replenishments, connected replenishments, refueling at sea, personnel transfers, helicopter operations and an emergency breakaway drill. She delivered fuel, parts, cargo, mail, personnel, fresh vegetables, dry and frozen foods - including morale boosters such as ice cream and soda.
On hand to capture this particular week of operations was a production crew from the Discovery Channel Canada, who were filming an upcoming episode of the television series, "Mighty Ships," which will feature Peary and her crew.
"The shoot has been pretty interesting because I didn't expect to be so involved," said civil service mariner James "J.B." Brown, Peary's supply officer. "I was glad to help show them around and show them what we do.
They saw a full spectrum of underway operations, including deck, engineering and cargo operations. Hopefully, this will help people understand what goes on in the supply department."
The production crew learned firsthand that carrying out operations at the pace Peary experienced during their time aboard meant any delay could impact the next replenishment mission.
"You must have a sense of humor in this job," said Akerson. "We could be heading for a ship when they have to change the rendezvous point.
Sometimes, we get to a location and the ship has been called away for a priority mission. You must be flexible."
One way to remain flexible is to be prepared.
"When I get orders, I'll start on stock control items, sometimes five days ahead, just in case there's a schedule change," said Brown. "I like to prepare myself because we're doing events at the same time we're prepping for the next event."
While everything delivers is important, certain commodities seem to be a bit more precious than others and it's not machine parts.
"Ice cream is gold out here," said civil service mariner assistant yeoman storekeeper Renee Sanderlin.
A little moment of lightheartedness aboard USS Farragut (DDG 99) came when a pallet of ice cream delivered from Peary was rang aboard. This may have been meant in fun, but it underscored the positive impact the presence Peary has on U.S. Navy ships sailing the Gulf of Aden in support of counter-piracy operations.
"Supply ships like Peary are absolutely important to us conducting our counter-piracy mission," said Cmdr. William Daly, Farragut's commanding officer. "We work out of remote places and don't always have the ability to pull into port to replenish."
The crew on Peary realizes the importance of their missions.
"When it all boils down, we know we're out here to support the military mission, to support the fleet," said Brown. "We do the best we can and take pride in our work."