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USNS Richard E. Byrd Air Detachment Proves Vital to PP09

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS090911-04
Release Date: 9/11/2009 12:02:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Danny Hayes

KWAJALEIN, Republic of the Marshall Islands (NNS) -- Pacific Partnership 2009 (PP09) arrived at its final mission site the second week of September concluding a three-month humanitarian civic assistance mission that wouldn't have been possible for the U.S. Navy to execute without the support of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) contracted air detachment.

"Commercial vertical replenishment for the Navy began with MSC on the East Coast in January of 2000, as a major cost-saving move for the Navy," said Presidential Airways Commercial VERTREP Detachment B Officer-in-Charge, Dan Crocker. "Presidential's current detachment aboard USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) began in January 2008."

As the enabling platform for this year's Pacific Partnership, MSC underway replenishment ship Richard E. Byrd, and the mission's engineering and medical teams rely heavily on the air detachment for many of the requirements in sustaining the humanitarian effort.

The helicopters and crew members are a regular part of Richard E. Byrd's underway crew through contracts between the civilian company and MSC. During normal MSC vertical replenishment operations, the air detachment spends a lot of its time lifting cargo from ship to ship.

This current mission is different, however. The detachment faces challenges due to its size. It has fewer people compared to a U.S. Navy air detachment, yet the jobs do appear relatively the same.

"The [detachment] set-up basically mirrors that of the Navy's with an officer-in-charge, operations officer, safety officer, training officer, administration officer, lead engineer and two other engineers," said Crocker.

"Unlike a military detachment that may consist of up to 35 pilots and engineers, Presidential's detachment consists of only five pilots and three engineers who maintain two SA-330J Puma helicopters."

According to Pacific Partnership 2009 mission commander, Capt. Andrew Cully, the air detachment has done well in supporting the humanitarian mission.

"They've always been on top of every mission and there's never been a failure on anybody's part," said Cully. "Every time we've asked them to do something, they've done it and they've done quite well at it."

The aircraft have moved more than 285 tons of PP09 cargo and have transported more than 500 passengers.

The Pacific Partnership mission for this year ends with the team's visit to the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Richard E. Byrd will continue with its MSC mission and carry with it the air detachment.

"It's a true pleasure to be associated with the guys I work with, but also the Navy, through MSC," said Crocker. "We are all out here serving our country through what we do. Everyone has their little piece of the world. VERTREP-ing is mine; it's what I know and what I love to do."

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