When the United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) called with an unprecedented assignment, the SIU answered in a big way.
TRANSCOM in mid-September launched the largest-ever sealift readiness exercise as part of its “Turbo Activation” series, ordering dozens of ships to sea.
The SIU crewed up all 33 vessels, filling every unlicensed job.
“On one hand, there is never a doubt that Seafarers will answer the call,” stated Bart Rogers, SIU director of manpower. “But in light of the sheer size of this activation, I think the members deserve recognition for stepping up so quickly, without notice, and getting it done. Credit to the people in the halls, too – this was a very large task, and everyone rose to the occasion.” TRANSCOM oversees 10 other U.S. combatant commands (including the U.S. Military Sealift Command), the military services, defense agencies and other government organizations. In announcing the activations, the agency noted, “These exercises typically involve only a few ships but this event … [will] provide a better assessment of the readiness of U.S. sealift forces than can be accomplished with fewer activations. This scale will also stress the underlying support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation’s ready sealift forces.”
The Turbo Activation series has, since 1994, served as a no-notice recurring exercise series, sponsored and monitored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and TRANSCOM. This was the fourth Turbo Activation exercise this year.
The agency further noted, “This TRANSCOM exercise rapidly activates a mix of Military Sealift Command and U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) ships on the East, West, and Gulf Coasts. The exercise validates the readiness of selected ships and tests their ability to meet activation time standards and Department of Defense mission requirements. The activated ships are directed to transition from a reduced operating status to a fully crewed status, with the quarters made habitable and cargo gear ready, within five days. Activations are commonly followed immediately by a sea trial.”
MARAD maintains the Ready Reserve Force, which is a fleet of 46 militarily useful, civilian-crewed ships. This fleet, located throughout the country, is maintained in a reserve status in the event that the Department of Defense needs the vessels to support the rapid, massive movement of military supplies and troops for a military exercise or large-scale conflict. The ships are managed by commercial companies and crewed by civilian merchant mariners. MSC, in close coordination with MARAD, operates, supplies, and maintains the ships that provide logistics support, conduct special missions, move military equipment, supply combat forces, provide humanitarian relief, and strategically position combat cargo around the world.
During the recent exercise, ships were activated in Baltimore; Norfolk, Virginia; Seattle; Harvey, Louisiana; Oakland, California; Wilmington, California; Houston; Jacksonville, Florida; and Tacoma, Washington.