MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Until now, civilian workers on the cargo and ammunition ship USNS Medgar Evers have operated alone when refueling or resupplying naval vessels on the go. Exercise Bold Alligator 14 provided an opportunity for the Navy-Marine Corps team to place service members aboard the Medgar Evers, not only to assist with resupply operations, but to test their ability to perform maintenance on equipment away from staging areas on land, Oct. 27 through Nov. 10.
Bold Alligator 14, the largest Navy-Marine Corps exercise held on the East Coast, is a joint, crisis response training event intended to refine and sharpen expeditionary capabilities. For distribution and supply specialists aboard the Medgar Evers, the exercise was designed to assess new ways to carry out their primary mission: provide supplies and maintenance support to operating forces.
“We are here to assess the capabilities and limitations of this type of platform,” said Capt. Keaton Thomas, commander of troops aboard Medgar Evers for Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “We can do maintenance aboard the ship as well as project the maintainers and the parts forward where they are needed.”
The ship’s logistical capabilities could allow units in a forward deployed environment to rapidly resupply with warfighting necessities without having to reach outside their area of operations.
“The Medgar Evers is primarily a logistics ship, but [the Marines] are here to see if we can move cargo across the sea closer to the warfighter without needing to return to the states,” said Gunnery Sgt. Alex Garciasilva, the distribution chief with CLR-25.
The Marines aboard the ship can repair any type of drive trains, engine, truck or Humvee that needs to be repaired, according to Garciasilva. The unit can also send out a detachment to a beach to bring parts and repair any equipment there.
While the ship can still perform its normal mission of delivering supplies or refueling Navy ships, having Marines aboard provides the support needed to repair Marine equipment and allows the vessel to meet Marine-specific needs, added Thomas.
The second day out to sea, the ship successfully transferred fuel to the USS New York and provided 354 pieces of cargo by helicopter to the USS Fort Henry. On Nov. 4, the Marines also helped transport additional supplies to the USS Oak Hill.
“We have been able to integrate very well with our civilian counterparts,” said Thomas. “Learning how to work together with them has been a challenge, but a really good, eye-opening experience. They have definitely done an exceptional job here.”
Having the cargo and its maintainers along with the distribution and supply Marines at sea improved the efficiency and timeliness of reinforcing forward units. When they were not servicing the forward units, the Marines worked with their civilian counterparts, learning how they operate and exploring ways to better cooperate in the future.
“It may be outside the realm of what we would normally consider, but this proves the wide spectrum of things the Marine Corps can do,” said Thomas. “[The] platform provides a great deal of versatility. We can continue to test these higher level logistics functions, and provide a lot of service to crisis response scenarios.”