ARABIAN SEA - Aboard Military Sealift Command (MSC) dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), 129 civil service mariners and nine military personnel ensure warships in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) are supplied and fully mission capable.
The supply department aboard Alan Shepard has a military department (MILDEPT) comprised of two U.S. Navy Supply Corps officers, six logistics specialists (LS) and one Army military food inspector. The MILDEPT is responsible for an essential aspect of the ship’s mission to provide U.S. Navy warships the ability to stay at sea for extended periods of time.
Leading the MILDEPT team is Officer-in-Charge, Cmdr. Robert Keating. He finds himself privileged to lead the small, group of military professionals who provide logistical support to deployed naval assets.
“Without a doubt, I have been blessed with an outstanding MILDEPT team that knows the answer to a question before I even ask it,” said Keating. “They work hard day in and day out supporting our hectic schedule. We have supported more then 50 replenishment-at-sea events in this AOR, but I think they all enjoy being busy with the steady strain of our assigned operational tempo.”
The MILDEPT LSs work together with civil service mariner (CIVMAR) supply personnel to manage customer requests and make sure customers receive the correct type and amount of requested supplies. The MILDEPT also ensures materials in storerooms are maintained and sorted correctly.
“The civilian mariners are a great group of people and we all get along really well,” said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Renita Lenard, MILDET stock control supervisor. “They are always motivated and take their jobs to heart.”
MILDEPT LSs are functioning stock controllers who receive and process orders from customer ships. Their main responsibilities throughout the supply cycle involves technical research, receipt processing, filing and conducting quality assurance inspections on supplies to be issued, prior to replenishments-at-sea.
Alan Shepard’s CIVMARs are responsible for the physical movement of the supplies, as well as operating and navigating the ship. These professional mariners receive and handle supplies when brought aboard ship while in port; store and separate supplies for each ship; and break out and prepare supplies to be sent to customers during replenishments-at-sea.
"The civilian mariners control supply spaces and manage cargo handling,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Franklin Cardona, MILDEPT functional area supervisor. “Once we screen an order, it will be sent to them and they will begin breaking out the material from the storeroom, palletizing and preparing it for delivery. The deck department then prepares the pallets for vertical or connected replenishment.”
Along with receiving and processing orders, a constant physical inventory of food item quantity and freshness aboard Alan Shepard has to be maintained.
Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Clarence Harrison and Army Sgt. Carmelo Mendoza work together to make sure food aboard, as well as food ordered and received from vendors, is fresh and safe to consume.
“I manage the inventory and shelf life program along with Sgt. Mendoza,” said Harrison,who conducts food expiration inspections, date extensions and the initial inspection of the food when it is delivered to the ship inport.
The high number of requests for replenishments-at-sea in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR make for a busy, high-stress work environment. Continuous loading of stores during short port visits make for almost no liberty, and the MILDEPT spends the entire year-long tour aboard ship; away from family and friends.
“As an LS, it is not easy being on a supply ship in this region,” said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Jose Gutierrez, MILDEPT leading petty officer. “High-tempo work environments, an enormous number of customers and supply requisitions, along with reduced liberty in port can make this a challenging assignment.”
Later this year, Alan Shepard’s LSs will begin training their CIVMAR counterparts as the MILDEPT prepares to transfer its functions to the ships’ civilian crew. This transition will free-up Sailors for other vital Navy roles and is scheduled to be complete on all dry cargo/ammunition ships by October 2013.
Alan Shepard is assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 53 providing fuel and supplies to U.S. Navy and coalition ships in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.