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Interview with Rear Adm. Tom Carney, COMLOG WESTPAC, and Capt. Jim Hruska, COMMSCFE

Logistics is what we’re all about

You mentioned your role in providing repair services. How do you take care of the fleet here, and how is that different here than Norfolk or San Diego?

Carney: We have what are called master ship repair agreements with a number of different shipyards and ship repair facilities all over Southeast Asia and South Asia, and even up in Korea. We’re responsible for ship repair every place outside of Japan for both U.S. Navy ships and Military Sealift Command ships. We maintain Hruska’s ships full time out here, because those ships do not return to the U.S. We do significant amounts of maintenance out here, and we do repair and contingent maintenance on U.S. Navy ships as required in theater. To support emergent corrective maintenance on U.S. Navy ships, we have repair contracts in place with over 30 different facilities all over South and Southeast Asia. If we need to pull a ship in to one of those yards, the Navy has already vetted its industrial practices and certifications to ensure they have the kind of capabilities that we require to repair U.S. Navy or MSC ships. This way, we’re not starting new every time there’s an issue.

H-60 Unrep

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Eightballers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 drops off cargo from the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO-202) to the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a replenishment-at-sea. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak

 

With LCS, you have a whole new type of ship and it’s going to have some different maintenance and upkeep demands because of the small crew and a different concept of who actually does the onboard work. How are you gearing up to be able to meet that challenge, starting with Freedom, and then presumably you’ll soon have more LCS.

Carney: The maintenance model for LCS prescribes that a significant amount of the planned maintenance is done by a contractor, not Navy personnel, during regular scheduled availabilities. The contractor responsible for LCS maintenance, in this case Lockheed Martin, brings in technicians to conduct planned maintenance required for the ship. If it were a corrective maintenance or an emergent maintenance requirement, we would leverage our relationships with ship repair facilities in the area to accomplish those repairs. That said, ship repair is a huge industry in Singapore. A number of subcontractors that support systems on board LCS have facilities or representatives in Singapore that are already doing similar work on other types of ships. It’s a very good fit.

 

What do you see as the future for COMLOG WESTPAC? Do you see the role here changing? Or do you think it’s just going to continue to be more of the same?

Carney: I don’t think our role is going to change, but it has expanded. One of our delineated tasks is theater security cooperation for Southeast Asia and South Asia. Beyond the well-established exercises in Southeast Asia, we have exercises with Bangladesh and the Maldives, and occasional engagements with Sri Lanka. In the past, we made use of a lot of transiting strike groups, as we talked about before, to accomplish TSC – theater security cooperation – missions. The LCS is a great TSC asset, and deploying LCS to Southeast Asia on a more enduring basis will give us a lot more flexibility to conduct TSC engagements throughout the year, and not just during the CARAT schedule. I think we’ll see more of those types of engagements. We’ll continue our primary mission of logistics support to the 7th Fleet, but the LCS gives us the opportunity to expand theater security cooperation on a different level with a number of different regional navies.

USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1)

The Military Sealift Command joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1) pulls into Naval Station Mayport, Fla. to be inspected by Rear Adm. Sinclair M. Harris, commander of U.S. 4th Fleet, Feb. 14, 2013. Spearhead is the first of of nine Navy joint high-speed vessels and is designed for rapid intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damian Berg

 

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert talked about the “rebalance” to the Pacific, and that there’s going to be a focus on the new platforms coming to the region. He mentioned JSF, P-8, MLP, and JHSV. What does that do to your ability to perform your mission with the theater security cooperation?

Hruska: I think the one word would be “flexibility.” Take Joint High Speed Vessel [JHSV]. She has a lot of square footage that we can use; we can move people; and she can move at high speed. She’s a shallow draft, so she opens up a lot of additional locations where we can move cargo and Navy and Marine Corps equipment in. She can do 40 knots, but that doesn’t mean we have to move it around 40 knots. It’s going to be great for both logistics and intra-theater transport of people and equipment. MLP is more only going to be for the Pre-Po squadrons at Guam, Saipan and Diego Garcia. MLP gives us flexibility on how we offload the strategic assets that are held in the prepositioning squadrons.

It’s a seven and a half hour plane ride from Singapore to Japan – that’s further than from New York to Los Angeles. And that’s just one direction. Take that compass and stretch it in four directions and that’s the amount of water space they support out there, and they do a great job.

 

How do you view this “rebalance?” What is it going to do to your requirement to support a growing number of ships?

Hruska: The obvious answer is that we’ll have more customers to serve. But, there’s really no concern, because as we re-pivot our forces to the Pacific, MSC will just go ahead and realign their forces to marry up with where the operational forces are. It’s just going to be a little busier, but as far as how we actually conduct business, there will be no change.

 

What would you say about the people you have on your staff here?

Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)

Ensign Kristine Mun measures the distance of the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199) from the bridge wing of the forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) as the ship makes her approach for an underway replenishment, May 31, 2013. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner

Carney: I’m very fortunate to have some of the best folks in the Navy here. They are sealift professionals and logistics professionals for the most part, and have been doing this job for many years. They are  certainly some of the finest quality people – both military and civilian – that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. They’re true professionals, who have a tough job and a lot of water to cover. It’s a seven and a half hour plane ride from Singapore to Japan – that’s further than from Europe to Los Angeles. And that’s just one direction. Take that compass and stretch it in four directions and that’s the amount of water space they support out there, and they do a great job.

 

What would you like to say about your civilian mariners?

Hruska: The civilian mariners provide the Navy with tremendous flexibility because they come trained already. They’re experienced, so it allows us to get by with small crews, and to plug and play civilian mariners into different ships. And they’re great Americans. They do the unsung work. Most Americans understand the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, but most have no idea about the merchant mariners.

 

Any final comments?

Carney:  The logistics mission is tremendously important in the western Pacific. As I just mentioned, look at the water space in the area that we’re responsible for. The carrier strike groups, the amphibious strike groups and the other ships can’t do their mission if we don’t do our mission. That’s the bottom line. And again, I’m tremendously fortunate to be able to work with the professionals at this command here that have been making it happen for decades and really do a great job.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...