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MTMC remembers Bob Hope.

As the USNS Bob Hope moved through the Gulf of Oman on July 27 bound for Savannah, Ga., news came of the passing of comedian Bob Hope--the ship's namesake.

The ship's master, Capt. Dave Henderson, ordered the flying of a second United States flag in honor of the legendary entertainer.

"He was such an amazing man, and we are so lucky to work on a ship that carries his name" said Henderson. "We plan to send the flag we flew to his family in California."

The Bob Hope was christened in 1997. Typically, the Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/Roll-off ships are named after Medal of Honor recipients. Bob Hope, who entertained military service members worldwide for five decades, is the first entertainer to have a Navy ship named in his honor.

It is probably fated that a ship with such a name will have a tabled record of achievement.

It is a record of achievement MTMC transporters know well beginning with the maiden voyage of the Bob Hope in late June 1999.

The situation was urgent. The Bob Hope was one of three ships carrying equipment of a 1st Infantry Division task force from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Thessaloniki, Greece. With the withdrawal of the Serbian Army from the province of Kosovo, unrest had broken out. The supreme allied commander of NATO, Gen. Wesley Clark, urged all nations offering soldiers or police to rush them to the troubled region.

A task force composed of transporters of the 598th Transportation Group and the 838th Transportation Battalion, both of Rotterdam, the Netherlands; and the 839th Transportation Battalion, Livorno, Italy, went into action.

The Bob Hope, followed in turn by the USNS Soderman and Osprey, were loaded in Bremerhaven by 838th transporters as warfighters rushed equipment to the port. As equipment lists changed, stow plans were hastily revised.

The Bob Hope, the first ship, left Bremerhaven at a flank speed in excess of 24 knots.

Transporters in Thessaloniki were anxious. The Soderman was three days sailing behind the Bob Hope. Transporters, led by now retired Col. Tom Thompson, would have two workdays to discharge the vessel. There would be a day for the ship and port to be cleared--and then another vessel would be awaiting discharge!

Any miscalculation would throw the entire operation off schedule. With succeeding ships en route, any delays would have negative operational impacts.

The Bob Hope arrived at the port's sea buoy June 30 at 6 a.m.--right on schedule. MTMC transporters, who had worked the previous night until 11 p.m. discharging a high-priority engineering unit, were ready.

The equipment came off in streams of wheeled and mechanized columns. It was quickly organized into organic company and battalion configurations so all the 1st Infantry Division units would be ready for the road march ahead.

Under the blazing summer Mediterranean Sun, the job got done.

Late July 1, entertainer James Brown, the "King of Soul," came by for a visit with a flashy entourage of singers and dancers.

Ignoring the heat and oblivious to their stylish clothes and shoes, the entertainers went aboard the Bob Hope to observe discharge operations.

In a staging area, the entertainer found some off-duty troops. James Brown led the soldiers in the singing of America the Beautiful. It was quite a moment ... far from home ... with a group of soldiers about to travel into harm's way on the eve of the July 4th holiday.

Late that afternoon, a flood of young soldiers, easily distinguishable with their bright red 1st Infantry Division patches, flooded into the port from buses. There were hundreds of soldiers detailed to drive the 1,000-plus vehicles.

The soldiers lazed in the late afternoon sun. Some slept while others gossiped and picked at meal rations in the heat.

The next morning, the port was empty.

The military equipment, escorted by Greek police, had left the port at 5 a.m. to avoid traffic and demonstrators. Destination: Kosovo.

MTMC transporters had the day off. The Bob Hope eased from port in late morning, steaming into the summer haze of the Mediterranean until it disappeared completely over the horizon.

The discharge pier had to be cleared.

The Soderman, with another full load of 1st Infantry Division equipment, was due the next day and MTMC transporters had more days of work in the hot, steamy sun waiting for them.
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Author:Randt, John
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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