With the area of responsibility that you have, you have ships coming in, passing through the 7th fleet AOR going to 5th fleet, or coming back, deploying to 7th fleet, and ships that are forward deployed here. So it’s a constantly dynamic number of ships that you are supporting.
Most of Jim Hruska’s ships are permanently stationed or positioned out here in the Western Pacific. The MSC model allows the Navy to trade ships back and forth with 5th fleet to support mission requirements. A great number of these ships deploy out here on a pretty permanent basis. And with those ships, we support not only the forward deployed naval forces in Japan, but as you mentioned, the deploying ships that go back and forth to 5th fleet.
Capt. Jim Hruska: As far as the ships out here, MSC’s a little different than your car. With your car you drive your car to the gas station. With MSC, we drive the gas station to the customer. To make that work, we have our favorite locations and, based on historical needs and the historical operations of the U.S. Navy, we can preposition our ships in those areas, and then we move the ships as needed to meet the needs of the customer. We can flex to their needs. But based on historical operation patterns, we have it pretty well down to a science where we need to be.
So as the ships pass through here – destroyers, cruisers – you pretty much know what they’re going to need and what they’re going to want so that you can have that ready for them. They’re not all going to have totally unique and different requirements in terms of fuel, food or other requirements.
Carney: We are pretty good at tracking our ships across the Pacific. We monitor their fuel levels and determine when they’re going to need fuel and, as Hruska said, figure out where to do that. Every ship has some unique requirements, but there is an established pattern of operations that helps us plan logistics requirements and make adjustments as necessary. For example, we know what kind of food stores the average DDG or aircraft carrier needs, and plan for that.
That said, we do send logistics planners back to San Diego or PacNorWest before ships, carrier strike groups or expeditionary strike groups deploy, to meet with the staffs and work out an effective transit plan to get them across. We also look at what other requirements they have in the area, and ensure we have logistics ships and materials in the right place to support the groups during transit. We’re flexible enough to move materiel around in theater in case requirements change over time.
What would be something that might be a unique requirement? Do you ever have anything that’s kind of a surprise that pops up?
Carney: Few requests are surprising, but the quantities may differ depending on the transit plan, a ship’s destination and its mission.
Hruska: With most ships, their food stocks are well known. And the taste of one ship to the next ship is the same. But they can’t carry all the FFVs — the fresh fruit and vegetables — they want. Frozen goods and dry goods are easy, but we need to refresh FFV. You need logistic hubs. That’s one important part of having partners. At Singapore we have a logistics base. Ships can take on stores here, or we can take them out to them.
Do you ever have that odd situation, with somebody who’s really low on fuel, so that when you finally get there and that probe goes “click,” there’s a huge collective sigh of relief? Or is this something that just doesn’t happen?
Hruska: I would say, no. That would be a sign of failure. There are enough safeguards and between reporting periods, and between the assets we have throughout the AOR, we never get to that type of extremis with any of our ships.
Carney: If we need to adjust a fueling schedule, or move a ship, we can do that well before a ship gets into a bad position. Working constantly with 7th Fleet and with the ship or strike group, we track the fuel of all ships on a daily basis, and know the burn rates throughout a given transit. These ships conduct many other engagements in 7th Fleet AOR as they transit through, and it’s our job to support those engagements as well, which means keeping our ships well fueled and supplied for the duration of their time in theater.