AK 9301 Buffalo Soldier
AK 9301 Buffalo Soldier was one of three ships chartered to support the US Air Force's ammunition prepositioning mission. Buffalo Soldier is a roll-on/roll-off self-sustaining container ship built in 1978. She is 670 feet long, 87 feet wide and has a deadweight tonnage of 26,438 long tons. The ship has 143,000 square feet of cargo carrying capacity, or room for 1,063 20-foot containers. Its 120-long-ton capacity roll-on/roll-off ramp enables most any vehicle to be driven aboard. It can sail at a speed of 16 knots. Buffalo Soldier was prepositioned in Diego Garcia. The ship is named in honor of African-Americans who served in the Union Army during the US Civil War.
In December 1995 RR & VO LLC, Rockville, Maryland, was awarded a $14,340,847 time charter contract for the 17-month charter of roll-on, roll-off/container ship MV Buffalo Soldier. This contract had options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $40,436,542. MV Buffalo Soldier carried prepositioned equipment for the U.S. Air Force in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The US Navy's Military Sealift Command Central Technical Activity is the contracting activity.
In December 1995 Merlin Shipbuilding, Bethesda, Maryland, was awarded a $14,469,535 timecharter contract for the 17-month charter of roll-on, roll-off/container ship MV American Merlin [T-AK 9302]. This contract had options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $40,306,605. MV American Merlin carried prepositioned equipment for the U.S. Air Force in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command Central Technical Activity was the contracting activity. As of March 1997 Maritime Prepositioning Squadron ONE, forward deployed in the Mediterranean, was composed of five ships: Three Waterman Class - SS PFC Eugene A. Obregon which was the flagship, SS SGT Matej Kocak and SS MAJ Stephen W. Pless; one Amsea Class, MV John P. Bobo which served as an alternate flagship; and one Air Force ship, MV American Merlin.
The Naval Vessel Register considered these two ships to be units of the AK 2222 Ship Class, though their characteristics are dis-similar [and indeed there does not appear to be a ship designated AK 2222].
The MV A1C William H. Pitsenbarger replaced the Buffalo Soldier in late 2001. The Pitsenbarger container ship is owned by RR & VO L.L.C. and operated by Red River Shipping Corp. of Rockville, Md., the operator of the Buffalo Soldier, under a five-year charter to MSC. The ship prepositions ammunition and supplies in Diego Garcia, as did the Buffalo Soldier. The company acquired the 621-foot geared containership, originally the Therese Delmas, from French owners to fill the new charter. The Buffalo Soldier has since returned to the US. T-AK 9302 American Merlin was returned to her owner Sealift Inc. after completion of her MSC charter in late 2001 and renamed Merlin. The vessel was reacquired by MSC under long term contract in 2003 and designated T-AK-323 Merlin. The masters and crews of seven Military Sealift Command ships were honored by the United Seamen's Service at the 38th annual Admiral of the Ocean Sea Awards in New York City 05 November 2004. Representatives from each ship were presented with an AOTOS Mariners' Plaque for displaying outstanding seamanship, courage and devotion to duty at sea. The crew of maritime prepositioning ship MV Merlin was honored for the daring rescue of a man in danger of drowning after his ship, MV Kephi, sank in stormy seas. Despite gale force winds and 20-plus-foot seas, Merlin's master skillfully pulled the ship alongside a small life raft and rescued Kephi's second mate, Eslam Hassan Osman Morgan, from the frigid water.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2002 and was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for his heroism. On 08 April 2005 T-AK-323 Merlin was named for Chapman at a pierside ceremony in Southport, NC. More than 300 people, including Chapman's friends, family and fellow combat controllers, attended the ceremony at Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point in Southport, NC. This was the first prepositioning ship to be named for an Air Force Cross recipient. The 670-foot container/roll-on/roll-off ship is crewed by 19 U.S. commercial mariners and is owned by Sealift Inc. The ship is under contract to the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command. T-AK-323 TSgt. John A. Chapman, formerly T-AK-323 Merlin, rejoined Squadron One in June 2005. MV Chapman strategically prepositions Air Force ammunition in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern Atlantic Ocean.
Sealift Inc. is a privately held company, incorporated in New York, established in 1975. Originally Sealift was a shipbrokerage house specializing in paper, rice, general cargo and operating breakbulk liner services to the Mediterranean and from Brazil. Today, the Company owns and operates a fleet of eleven U.S. Flag, ocean-going ships; most of these vessels operate in our U.S. Flag Liner Service to world wide destinations. It is one of the largest ocean transportation contractors for U.S. Government Food Aid cargoes. Sealift Inc. and other U.S.-flag companies rely on the cargo preference laws to provide base cargoes upon which they can build commercial competitiveness. These preference cargoes allow them to retain the fleet of vessels and employ the skilled American citizen mariners to support our Nation's economic and defense security needs.
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