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Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron 3 Holds Change of Command

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS110516-11

By Edward Baxter, Military Sealift Command Far East Public Affairs

SAIPAN (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Three held a change of command ceremony at the American Memorial Park on Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, May 16.

Capt. Deidre McLay relieved Capt. Herman Awai as commanding officer.

MPS Squadron Three comprises eight government-owned and two U.S.-flagged commercial cargo ships under charter to MSC that strategically preposition cargo and supplies at sea in the Western Pacific, for rapid delivery to shore where needed. These ships visit many allied nations in the Pacific Rim throughout the year, participating in exercises and goodwill exchanges.

The commander of MPS Squadron three has tactical command and control of all 10 ships in the squadron and is embarked on board the flagship, USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus, with a staff of 10 Sailors. All MPS Squadron Three ships are crewed by civilian merchant mariners working for private companies under contract to MSC to operate and navigate the ships.

McLay is the 26th commander in the squadron's history.

"I look forward to continuing the important work of the organization, together with the military staff and professional merchant mariners in remaining ready to respond whenever and wherever our capabilities may be needed," McLay said.

Capt. Charles Denman, commander of the Singapore-based Military Sealift Command Far East and the ceremony's principal speaker presented Awai with the Legion of Merit Medal.

"A skilled and dynamic leader, Capt. Awai ensured his ships maintained their highest state of readiness," Denman said.

Awai took command of MPS Three in May 2010. Denman recognized Awai for leading the squadron's participation in high-profile exercises, including Freedom Banner and Cobra Gold. Denman also recognized Awai for engaging with local governments and foreign militaries during port visits and exercises during the past year, including a September 2010 visit from the president and first lady of the Republic of Palau. Awai also led the squadron's participation in more than two dozen community relations projects in four countries.

Awai thanked his staff and the people of Saipan for their support.

"Your steadfast support to the military has been inspiring," Awai said.

Awai reports next as director of future operations on the staff of U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

A native of Boulder City, Nev., and a graduate of the University of Colorado, McLay most recently served as chief of staff for U.S. Naval Forces Korea in Seoul. McLay also served as the commissioning commanding officer of guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) and deployed to the Arabian Gulf as chief staff officer for Destroyer Squadron 31, embarked on board aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Ashore, McLay served on the staff of the chief of naval operations, as an instructor at the Naval Surface Warfare Officers School, and at Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She holds master's degrees in operations research from the Naval Postgraduate School and national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College.

Ceremony guests included representatives from the Office of the Governor of Saipan, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. National Park Service.

MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, merchant-mariner crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.

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