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TAK 3015 1st Lt Harry L. Martin
Maritime Prepositioning Force (Enhanced) MPF(E)

The introduction of new and upgraded combat equipment for Marine Corps personnel requires additional afloat capacity within the Maritime Prepositioning Force, or MPF, ships. The Maritime Prepositioning Force (Enhanced), or MPF(E), program was designed to meet those requirements through the addition of a Maritime Prepositioning Ship, or MPS, to each of the three MPS squadrons. The three MPF(E) ships, unlike the current MPF ships, are converted ships that are owned by the Navy. Current MPF ships are long-term chartered vessels owned and crewed by private companies. The MPF(E) program is one of the new major ship acquisition programs solely managed by MSC; in the past, most others have been managed by the Naval Sea Systems Command.

The first MPF(E) ship deployed in 1999, and the program was completed in 2000. The three vessels acquired are physically dissimilar, and constitute a "class" only in the sense that they were acquired in a single acquisition initiative.

The MPF(E) procurement was a three-phase program designed to increase the capability of the three existing Maritime Prepositioning Ship squadrons through the addition of a converted ship to each of the squadrons. Phase I of the program was executed in April 1996 when the Naval Sea Systems Command awarded five engineering design contracts for the conversion of an existing ship to an MPF(E) ship. The contract award by Military Sealift Command constituted Phase II and Phase III of the process. Phase II was the selection of a contractor to proceed with the conversion of an existing vessel, and Phase III was for the operation and maintenance of that ship for the first five years following conversion.

Acquisition and conversion of three MPF(E) ships satisfy the requirement for additional MPF cargo capacity. The specific new capabilities to be prepositioned in each MPS squadron include an expeditionary airfield, a Navy mobile construction battalion and a fleet hospital. The converted ships will be capable of simultaneous roll-on, roll-off and lift-on, lift-off operations both pierside and in-stream. Each ship will have a flight deck for helicopter operations, but will not carry operational aircraft. Prepositioning of this additional equipment with the MPS squadrons will significantly enhance Marine air-ground task force capabilities available to the war-fighting commanders.

The experience gained from MPS operations during Operation Desert Storm, and from various peacetime evolutions, pointed out the need to add specific new MPSRON cargo, such as the supplies and equipment needed to build and sustain an expeditionary airfield and/or a naval expeditionary medical support system, and to support a Navy Mobile Construction Battalion. A corollary need was to restore the cargo stowage area lost due to increases in equipment size and quantities. To address these needs, Congress authorized the acquisition and conversion of one Maritime Prepositioning Force (Enhanced) (MPF(E)) ship for each MPSRON to significantly augment the warfighting capabilities available to support the unified commanders in chief (CINCs).

All three MPF(E) ships authorized--USNS First Lieutenant Harry L. Martin (T-AK 3015), USNS Lance Corporal Roy M. Wheat (T-AK 3016), and USNS Gunnery Sergeant Fred W. Stockham (T-AK 3017) -- have been delivered to MSC. These new assets are combination RO/RO-container ships capable of long-term stowage of Marine Corps equipment in environmentally controlled spaces. They can off-load their cargo either pierside or at anchor in seas up to state 3, and launch amphibious vehicles via a submerged stern ramp. Each ship is capable of carrying the lighterage needed to support cargo operations. Vital statistics for the MPF(E) ships are listed in the box on this page.

Among the specific new capabilities introduced to each MAGTF with the deployment of the MPF(E) ships are the following:

  • Expeditionary Airfield (EAF). An EAF provides the flexibility needed to allow the force commander to order a variety of airfield configurations to suit the tactical situation. The modular runway can be up to 3,800 feet in length with parking spaces for 75 aircraft and enough fueling stations to service all of them. Runway lights, to permit night operations, and arresting gear also are provided.
  • Naval Expeditionary Medical Support System (NEMSS). Staffed by 940 Sailors, the NEMSS can be fully operational in 10 days. This expeditionary hospital consists of six operating tables as well as 80 intensive-care and 420 acute-care beds. The NEMSS provides in-situ state-of-the-art medical care for personnel engaged in remote areas.
  • Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB). The NMCB, which is capable of carrying out numerous vertical and horizontal construction missions, will be able to build troop billeting facilities and both refueling and ammunition supply points, to clear main supply routes, and to provide other construction support as needed.

Thirteen MSC prepositioning ships are specially configured to transport supplies for the US Marine Corps. Known as the Maritime Prepositioning Force, the 13 ships were built or modified in the mid-1980s and are on location in the western Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The 13 Maritime Prepositioning Ships, or MPS, contain nearly everything the Marines need for initial military operations -- from tanks and ammunition to food and fuel to spare parts and engine oil.

The MPS are organized into three squadrons, each commanded by a Navy captain. MPS Squadron One, usually located in the Atlantic Ocean or Mediterranean Sea, has four ships; MPS Squadron Two, usually located at Diego Garcia, has five ships; and MPS Squadron Three, normally in the Guam/Saipan area, has four ships. Each MPS squadron carries sufficient equipment and supplies to sustain 17,000 Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force personnel for up to 30 days. Each ship can discharge cargo either pierside or while anchored offshore using lighterage carried aboard. This capability gives the Marine Corps the ability to operate in both developed and underdeveloped areas of the world.

One additional Maritime Prepositioning Force vessel was added to each squadron. Unlike the current ships which are all under long-term charters -- the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Enhanced) ships, or MPF(E), are US government-owned vessels crewed by contractor-employed mariners. The MV Tarago was officially renamed 1st Lt Harry L. Martin on 01 June 2000 [the ship was initially to be designated T-AK 3013, but was in fact designated T-AK 3015. Martin was the first of three Maritime Prepositoning Force (Enhanced) ships that augment the capability of the Maritime Prepositioning Force of 13 ships.

As part of this program, on 16 January 2001 T-AKR 299 Soderman was redesignated STOCKHAM (T-AK 3017). The new name honors Gunnery Sergeant Fred W. Stockham, USMC (1881-1918) for heroism during the Battle of Belleau Wood. During an enemy bombardment, Sergeant Stockham noticed that a wounded comrade's gas mask had been shot away. Without hesitation and despite the presence of lethal gas, he gave his gas mask to the stricken marine and continued to assist in the evacuation of the wounded. He eventually collapsed from the effects of the gas which proved fatal several days later. One previous navy ship, STOCKHAM (DD 683)(1944-1957), was named in honor of Gunnery Sergeant Stockham. She earned eight battle stars during a World War II career that included participation in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.



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