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Combat Cargo Ensures Pacific Partnership 2011 Humanitarian Aid Delivery

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS110527-07

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Michael Russell, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs

LAE, Papua New Guinea (NNS) -- The Combat Cargo division aboard USS Cleveland (LPD 7) moved tons of cargo and hundreds of personnel from ship to shore in Papua New Guinea, May 19-27, ensuring the safe and timely delivery of engineering, medical and other humanitarian supplies as part of Pacific Partnership 2011 (PP11).

USS Cleveland is the flagship for PP11, and its Combat Cargo department is responsible for supervising direct on-load and off-load operations aboard the ship. They ensure the proper sequencing of personnel and equipment, and coordinate the off-load plan in support of all PP11 operations ashore.

"On a daily basis, there are over 200 personnel departing the ship in the morning and returning to the ship at the end of the day," said Marine Chief Warrant Officer Gilbert Santacruz. "We are responsible for manifesting all personnel inbound and outbound from the ship."

A humanitarian assistance/disaster response initiative, Pacific Partnership is aimed at strengthening regional relationships between the U.S., its allies and nations in the Western Pacific that might be called upon to respond to natural or humanitarian crises in the region. Combat Cargo is a key component to mission success.

The well deck on any amphibious transport dock ship is a very busy place, due to that location being the point of embarkation and debarkation for all heavy equipment, relief supplies, and personnel. The Marines attached to Combat Cargo have to make safety their primary responsibility, since they are working in an inherently dangerous environment.

"I believe the most challenging part of my job is safety," said Gunnery Sgt. Rudy Galima. "During well deck operations there are a lot of moving parts, vehicles, forklifts moving cargo, and personnel all over the well deck. I need to be in the middle of everything to ensure everyone knows what they are doing and where they are going."

The Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1665 crew and the air crew are essential parts of the Combat Cargo mission, as they own the platforms that bring people, equipment and supplies aboard the ship.

"We work very closely with the LCU crew and the aircrew team, coordinating time lines on when gear and personnel need to be loaded and offloaded," said Galima. "Whenever there are flight operations and personnel need to be transported, we manifest them onto the helicopters."

During a standard Western Pacific deployment, there are 18-20 Marines assigned to Combat Cargo operations on an amphibious ship like Cleveland, but there are only four for PP11.

"We have a smaller crew than normal for this deployment in the Combat Cargo department, but we do an excellent job nonetheless," said Cpl. Juan Rodriguez. "We work together to get the job done."

For Cleveland's final mission, the four-Marine team is responsible for transporting more than 800 people a day, as well as moving several trucks and heavy vehicles. As the last Combat Cargo team for Cleveland, they exemplify interoperability as the only Marines who are part of the ship's crew.

With Marines in tow, Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian assistance mission sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. It is aimed at improving interoperability between host and partner nations, from Tonga to Australia. Now in its sixth year, the mission will continue to Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia following their stop in Papua New Guinea.

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