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SDDC helps Coast Guard move unique cargo.

For the second time in 18 months, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is involved in the movement of U.S. Coast Guard vessels to support the global war on terror.

Two 110-foot patrol boats were plucked from the water July 9 at the Norfolk International Terminal and placed on the deck of the Motor Vessel Cape Ducato for transit to Southwest Asia.

Maj. Marvin Benoit and Tom Williams were among SDDC personnel from the Operations Center at Fort Eustis, Va., who worked the mission.

"It's a different operation, it's not something we usually do," said Benoit, operations officer for Terminals Branch.

The mission was different not just because of the unique cargo, said Williams..

"Normally we at the headquarters don't get the opportunity to work at a port," explained the senior marine cargo specialist. "With our terminal units working contingency operations at other ports, we were glad to assist."

To accomplish the mission, Williams and Benoit attended planning sessions, secured the labor and oversaw the loading and lashing of the Coast Guard vessels on board the ship.

The MV Cape Ducato is a Roll-on/Roll-off ship of the Ready Reserve Force, which is administered by the Maritime Administration. Once activated, the ship came under the operational control of the Military Sealift Command.

Planning began in May for Lt. Cdr. Steven Whitehead, the chief contingency planner for the Coast Guard Maintenance and Logistics Command.

The move required extensive coordination among many commands, agencies and civilian partners, said Whitehead.

The operation called for each patrol boat to be loaded into a cradle, lifted to the deck of the ship and secured for transit.

"We use cradles to support the patrol boats and make them easier to transport," Whitehead said. "The patrol boats are then lashed to the deck and the cradle, and the cradle is lashed and spot-welded to the deck so (the load) will be very secure once underway."

In a month-long preparation for deployment, the patrol boats Monomoy and Maui underwent maintenance in Portsmouth, Va., and the vessel crews received pre-deployment training, said Whitehead.

Meanwhile, the cradles were assembled at the Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore and moved by barge to the Coast Guard's Integrated Support Command in Portsmouth.

A few days before the lift, the barges and cradles were transported to Norfolk with tug boats crewed by Fort Eustis Soldiers of the 73rd Transportation Co., 10th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Group.

As a rehearsal, one of the empty cradles was lifted to the ship to ensure the final, heavier load would clear several vent shaft pipes lining the deck.

"We were using a 250-ton barge crane to lift the patrol boats onto the ship," Benoit said. "We wanted to make sure the crane had enough vertical height to lift the loads over the free board of the Cape Ducato."

On the morning of the lift, Soldiers of the 73rd Transportation Co. used a small tug to maneuver each patrol boat alongside the Cape Ducato and into position above a submerged cradle.

Appropriately enough, the Army's vessel bears the hull number 911 and is named the Enduring Freedom.

"It's neat that our tug--which got its name because of the War on Terrorism--is doing a mission to support the War on Terrorism," said Chief Warrant Officer John McMartin, the vessel's chief engineer.

The Enduring Freedom held each of the patrol boats in position so the crane could begin lifting the boat and cradle.

The weight of each lift registered more than 150 tons and cleared the ship's vent pipes with about two feet to spare, Benoit said.

Whitehead surveyed the action from the bridge of the MV Cape Ducato as longshoremen from SDDC's stevedore company Cooper/T. Smith began guiding the Monomoy to rest on the deck.

"Tomorrow morning after it's lashed down, that patrol boat will look like it has a spider web all over it," the Coast Guard officer said.

Indeed, when lashing was complete, more than 325 chains were securing both patrol boats to the deck of the ship, Williams said.

"The lashers from Cooper/T. Smith did an excellent job," he said. "It was hot-the heat index was over 110 degrees on the steel deck, but we had two gangs that worked from 7 a.m. until after midnight to secure the load."

The Monomoy and Maul will join four other patrol boats that are performing port security and other naval coastal warfare missions in the Middle East, Whitehead said.

Although the crews will probably rotate after a year, the mission is an open-ended one for the patrol boats, he said.

The MV Cape Ducato will dock in Southwest Asia in mid August, and the patrol boats will be ready to begin operations within 96 hours of arrival, said Whitehead.

Patti Bielling, Public Affairs Specialist SDDC Operations Center
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Title Annotation:Surface Deployment and Distribution Command; Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command
Author:Bielling, Patti
Publication:Translog
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2004
Words:805
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