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Experimental vessel returns from operations in Middle East

Army News Service

Release Date: 5/10/2004

By Staff Sgt. Russell Bassett

FORT EUSTIS, Va. (Army News Service, May 10, 2004)--The U.S. Army's experimental Theater Support Vessel USAV Spearhead, TSV-1X, made its first port call at its home base of Fort Eustis April 30.

The vehicle spent 14 months in the Persian Gulf supporting Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom before sailing to Australia for modifications in November.

"(The TSV) gives the Army high-speed unit move capabilities," said Chief Warrant Officer Patrick May, vessel master for one of the two teams that operate the diesel engine catamaran. "We can now pick up a company and all of its equipment and move from one point to another in theater at a high rate of speed."

The TSV, with a top speed of 48 knots, is much faster than its predecessor, the Logistical Support Vessel, which could only travel at 10 knots.

While in the Persian Gulf, the TSV supported operations for all five branches of the U.S. military and for civilian contractors. The TSV also supported several special operations including transporting Navy SEALs, said May.

Brig. Gen. Brian Geehan, chief of U.S. Army Transportation, was on hand to welcome the TSV's crew to Fort Eustis. The commander also toured the 380-foot vessel and spoke to the crew.

"I have a real appreciation for what (the TSV crew) is doing," he said. "This is a whole new era in Army watercraft and they are truly pioneering. Everything that happens aboard that ship, they are experiencing for the first time."

The TSV-1X, which was commissioned in late 2002 as an experimental vessel, has more than proved its worth, said Geehan. The Army is planning to have a fleet of 12 TSVs by 2012.

"It is a revolutionary transformational capability," said Geehan. "It gives us a huge improvement in range and speed, and more importantly, instead of being able to carry only equipment, it carries equipment and Soldiers."

Geehan also said the vessel has technological improvements in command and control, communications, computers and intelligence.

"It greatly enhances the capabilities of the war fighter."

The theater-style seating aboard the TSV seats 229 passengers and the cargo hold can carry 820 tons of equipment. The TSV-1X is under lease from an Australian company, who used the vessel for nine years as a high-speed ferry between Australia's mainland and Tasmania.

Several vestiges of its civilian past can still be viewed when aboard. Most notably, the carpet is blue with red and green spackling and the seating is reminiscent of a theater or commercial airliner. Sgt. Gregory Peters, watercraft operator who has been aboard the vessel for six months, says the vehicle is luxurious compared to other military watercraft.

"These are the best living conditions I have been on," said Peters, whose job is to perform maintenance on the TSV.

The catamaran is made almost completely of aluminum and Peters said this has made his job easier because he doesn't have to paint it.

"There is a lot of cleaning involved though," he said. "We pressure wash the deck once a week."

Many of the crewmembers have not seen their families for 18 months, but according to Peters, the morale was high aboard the TSV.

"We enjoy the life," he said. "We get to see the world; that is why most of us joined up for this field."

The main reason the TSV docked at its homeport, said Geehan, is for the Force Protection Symposium May 18-20 and for the Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore demonstration May 19 at Fort Story.

JLOTS is an integral element of the Army's transformation, according to Fort Eustis officials the capability allows military commanders the ability to deliver force-opening packages as well as sustainment forces with supplies to literally any location on the globe. The TSV will be in Virginia for a month before returning to the Persian Gulf.

(Editor's note: Staff Sgt. Russell Bassett is assigned as the Fort Eustis Public Affairs NCOIC.)

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