SSG Edward A. Carter Jr. resumes prepositioning mission.
It was just over six months ago, on July 14, when a deadly engine room fire struck the nearly loaded ship while it was docked at MTMC's 597th Transportation Group, Sunny Point, N.C. Two civilian mariners were killed and the ship was immobilized. Sunny Point fire fighters led a heroic battle to extinguish the flames overcoming obstacles of searing heat and the tight confines of the multi-level engine room. Over 1,200 ammunition containers had to be discharged and the 950-foot vessel towed to Norfolk, Va., for repairs.
Now, the Carter is back. The Military Sealift Command chartered ship, operated by Maersk Line, Limited, of Norfolk, is an integral part of the war on terrorism located at "an operating location in support of the U.S. Central Command execution of Operation Enduring Freedom."
The 597th Transportation Group loaded the ship in a 16-day period in February, ending Feb. 15. For the first time, MTMC transporters used a new double-pick spreader bar which lifted two 20-foot containers at the same time.
"The loading went very well," said George Pearson, a liaison with the Military Sealift Command. "We were excited to see her arrive. A tremendous amount of planning and coordination was done to enable us to get her loaded quickly and safely."
Completion of the Carter loading puts ammunition movements at Sunny Point back on the original schedule.
"The prepositioning maintenance cycles remain in place and as planned," said Steve Kerr, Chief, Cargo Operations.
Veterans of the fire watched the ship with special interest.
"I have a heightened sense of the presence of the Carter but no strong feelings about the ship itself," said Scott Brown, Chief, Sunny Point Fire Department. "I know the department is better equipped and mentally ready to respond if and when necessary."
Ernie Riddle, Chief, Ammunition Surveillance Division, was the top Sunny Point official on hand when the fire erupted. On duty that quiet Saturday afternoon, Riddle gave critical guidance on the contents and locations of ammunition containers in the initial moments of the fire fighting efforts.
"It was a spooky feeling to see the Carter back," said Riddle.
Before the Carter sailed, the ship received a special visitor: Allene Carter, the daughter-in-law of the ship's namesake. She began researching Carter's life in 1997 and through her efforts the Army veteran of World War II received the Medal of Honor more than 30 years after his death.
While at Sunny Point, Carter thanked each of the fire fighters who responded to the fire.
"It's a spiritual bond I have with this ship," said Carter.
Carter spoke easily with fire fighters. Back home, she is a 911 communications center supervisor in the San Francisco Bay area. Currently, she is working on a book about her father-in-law's life.
Carter promised Sunny Point fire fighters they will get an autographed copy.