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WestPac Express supports humanitarian assistance mission

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200511010448
Story by Sgt. Mandy L. McCammon

CHUK SAMET PORT, SATTAHIP, Kingdom of Thailand (Jan. 10, 2005) -- The High Speed Vessel WestPac Express arrived here Jan. 10 after a five-day voyage from Kin Red port in Okinawa, Japan, bearing crew and cargo that will bring additional supplies and personnel to support Operation Unified Assistance in Southeast Asia.

The 331-foot vessel has a total storage capability of more than 25,000 square feet and can carry approximately 1,060,000 pounds of cargo. It embarked on its current voyage from Okinawa, Jan. 5 with 35 vehicles, 30 pieces of communications equipment and 30 Marines with 7th Communications Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, according to Chief Warrant Officer-3 Perry L. Smith, a Combined Support Forces-536 logistics officer.

The WestPac Express is capable of transporting cargo that would take numerous trips on a standard cargo plane like a C-130, according to Air Force Staff Sgt. Donald L. Franks, an air transportation specialist with the Air Force Forces division of CSF-536 in Utapao, Thailand.

“A typical C-130 has a cargo weight limit of roughly 25,000 pounds,” Franks said. “It would take more than 40 trips to bring the same amount of cargo to an area that the WestPac Express can bring in one trip.”

Smith said the ship is quick and can go almost anywhere.

“The draft and speed are the main advantages of this vessel,” Smith said. “It gets us where we’re going quickly and can take us to shallow water ports many regular ships can’t.”

These advantages can prove useful in ferrying relief supplies quickly and efficiently to many different types of ports in support of the humanitarian aid mission, according to Smith.

It takes only minutes to begin the off-load of the contents using the vessel’s cargo hold ramp, according to the WestPac’s captain, Ken Kujala.

“Most of our missions support training evolutions, but we’re doing something different this time,” said Kujala. “Everyone from the captain to (the individual crewmembers) will jump through hoops to get the job done.”
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