I’ve talked at length here about all the missions our deployed Sailors are executing around the clock, around the world every day. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the quality of our Sailors and the superiority of our technology make our Navy today the greatest the world has ever known, but most of what they do would simply not be possible without one of our lesser known, but absolutely critical fleets – our Military Sealift Command (MSC).
Military Sealift Command (MSC) operates approximately 114 noncombatant ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by our deployed forces and coalition partners. In addition to the 114 active ships, MSC has a Ready Reserve Force of about 50 additional ships owned and maintained in reduced operating status by the U.S. Maritime Administration that can be activated (and operationally controlled by MSC) in as little as four, five, 10 or 20 days.
MSC is organized around four mission areas:
Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force (NFAF)
NFAF ships directly support Navy combatants, enabling the fleet to stay at sea, on station and combat ready. NFAF ships replenish ships underway with food, fuel, spare parts and ammunition. In fiscal year 2010 alone, MSC delivered 8.0 million square feet of dry cargo and 2.7 billion gallons of fuel to our deployed units.
NFAF also operates our Navy's two hospital ships – USNS COMFORT AND USNS MERCY. COMFORT AND MERCY each contain 12 operating rooms and a 1,000-bed hospital facility. When called into action, they can get underway in five days with a crew of more than 60 civil service mariners and 1,200 military medical personnel. The distinctive white ships with the Red Cross prominently painted on the hull serve as a symbol of peace and health to the hundreds of thousands around the world who have received care from our medical personnel.
MSC's Special Mission ships provide a wide variety of highly specialized ocean-going platforms for missions that include oceanographic and coastal surveying, ocean surveillance, missile-tracking, cable-laying and repair and deep submergence recovery. Military and civilian scientists and technicians carry out the unique missions of these various ships, which are operated by MSC employees and contract mariners.
MSC's Afloat Prepositioning Force allows U.S. military forces to deploy rapidly anywhere in the world to meet fast-breaking contingencies. These ships, strategically prepositioned around the globe, are loaded with equipment and supplies for the U.S. Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Navy and Defense Logistics Agency.
MSC operates Sealift ships that include government-owned and short- and long-term charter tankers and dry cargo ships that transport Department of Defense cargo during peacetime and war. During contingencies, MSC uses her surge sealift fleet, which can be rapidly loaded with equipment and supplies and deployed where needed.
MSC is unique in that it is a military command but all of its ships are crewed by Civilians (with some using small embarked military detachments). I’ve visited some of our MSC units in the past (e.g. see here for my USNS SACAGAWEA visit) and can tell you that I was extremely impressed with the knowledge of the Civilian crews – from the Captain on the bridge to the CHENG down below they are very skilled and complete professionals.
Just about every operation we carry out today is made possible by our MSC ships.
In the CENTCOM AOR today, our MSC ships keep our ships, submarines and aircraft replenished while our Sailors conduct combat operations in Afghanistan.
When our Navy was called upon to help the nation of Haiti after she had been struck by an 7.0 magnitude earthquake in early 2010, our medical teams embarked on USNS COMFORT saved thousands of lives, the maritime prepositioning ship USNS 1ST LT. JACK LUMMUS (T-AK-3011) showed that our LOTS capability was, in fact, a very real capability, and our Sailors turned GTMO into a logistics hub and used MSC ships to deliver critical supplies to our ships supporting the relief effort.
Whether replenishing our forces supporting combat operations over Afghanistan and Libya, participating in exercises in the Pacific, or delivering relief to tens of thousands of people affected by the earthquake in Haiti, our MSC ships can always be counted on to be there – on station and ready to support. The Navy’s Military Sealift Command makes our global Navy truly global and ensures we can sustain our Navy anywhere in the world for as long as necessary. All the best, JCHjr