Navy Bids Farewell to USNS San Jose
Military Sealift Command combat stores ship USNS San Jose marked the close of 39 years of service to the Navy fleet in a shipboard ceremony last Thursday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The event paid tribute to the ship and the hundreds of sailors and civil service mariners who have served as its crew over the past three decades, ensuring that San Jose played its part in keeping the U.S. Navy fleet at sea, on station and combat ready by delivering vital supplies to deployed warships worldwide. San Jose will be deactivated from the Navy in January 2010 and is the last of eight combat stores ships to deactivate from MSC's Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force. These ships delivered food, spare parts, mail, fuel and other supplies to U.S. Navy ships at sea. San Jose and five other combat stores ships were originally crewed by sailors until they were transferred to MSC in the 1990s and shifted to civil service mariner crewing. The others came directly to MSC from the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the early 1980s. San Jose transferred to MSC in October 1993. During its service with MSC, San Jose conducted countless underway replenishments with Navy combatant ships operating in support of missions, most recently in providing logistics support to Navy ships in the Arabian Gulf supporting both Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
San Jose has also supported U.S. disaster response and humanitarian assistance missions. In 2005, San Jose provided logistics support to hospital ship USNS Mercy as it played a key role in international efforts to provide assistance to victims of the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. "All of the crews who have served onboard USNS San Jose have set and maintained the highest standard of excellence in underway logistics to our Navy," said Capt. Jerome Hamel, the commodore in charge of MSC's combat logistics force ships operating in the Eastern Pacific. The combat stores ships are being replaced by the newly built Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo/ammunition ships. To date, eight of an expected class of 14 dry cargo/ammunition ships have been delivered to the Navy. "Being here to recognize these ships and the professional merchant mariners who sail them is appropriate," said Hamel. "These mariners will now move into the future with the Lewis and Clark-class ships that will continue to support the fleet and take on new missions and roles as fresh challenges arrive." The nearly 600 foot-long San Jose completed its final mission Dec. 3, when it returned to port in Pearl Harbor with a crew of 120 civil service mariners and a 40-member military detachment. Today's ceremony marks the end of the ship's operations. The bulk of the crew will disembark the ship following the ceremony and the official deactivation will take place in mid- to late January 2010. Military Sealift Command operates approximately 110 noncombatant, merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.