American Tern Delivers Equipment to Exercise Sabre Strike

Military Sealift Command’s long-term chartered container ship MV American Tern delivered containers and equipment belonging to the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 56th Stryker Brigade Oct. 7 in the Port of Riga, Latvia, as part of the preparation for Exercise Sabre Strike 2010. MSC’s Sealift Logistics Command Europe, headquartered in Naples, Italy, also played a key role in the off-load of equipment for this Northern European exercise.

Conducted at the Vecmilgravis Terminal in Riga, the offload set the stage for the joint multi-national military exercise training forces from the three Baltic States and the United States Oct. 18-31 at the Adazi training area in Latvia. The exercise is designed to tune interoperability procedures and to improve the integration of land and air operational ability among the participants. The exercise is being conducted with the prospect of having participants eventually support International Security Assistance Force operations in Afghanistan and other multinational operations in the future.

Equipment was loaded aboard U.S. merchant mariner-crewed American Tern in the Port of Philadelphia Sept. 16-17 and transported to Latvia. In the span of eight hours, the ship discharged 17 Stryker vehicles; eight containers holding the unit’s gear, weapons, communication equipment, and maintenance items for the Strykers; Humvees; trailers; and support trucks belonging to the Guard unit, said SEALOGEUR maritime transportation specialist

Matthew Mueller. After being discharged from the 521-foot long ship, the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command arranged for the equipment to be transported to the training area by rail and road.

The actual discharge of cargo was coordinated by SEALOGEUR with SDDC’s 950th Transportation Company. The relationships established between these supporting commands helped ensure a smooth coordination of efforts with the American Tern crew during the offload of equipment.

“The participation of 950th personnel during the planning conferences leading up to the exercise paid huge dividends,” said Army Maj. Gina SanNicolas, commander, 950th Transportation Company located in Bremerhaven, Germany. “Because of the communication among Latvian logistics officers, U.S. Army Europe and European Command planners, this set the tone for the successful reception and integration of cargo.”

Typically, the equipment is off-loaded from the ship by the port’s crane and crane operators, working alongside contracted stevedores. When SDDC requested crane support and stevedore supervision, MSC worked directly with American Tern to determine how to provide those services.

The 21 crew members did not hesitate to jump in and use its organic cranes to provide the services needed to get the mission accomplished. Typically, the equipment is offloaded from the ship by the port’s crane and crane operators, working alongside contracted stevedores. American Tern utilized its crew for crane driving and assisting in stevedoring services. The men operated the ship’s cranes to offload the cargo and provided guidance to the contracted stevedores on safely and efficiently handling the cargo and preparing it for transportation to the training range.

“Although the crew members of the Tern are not professional crane drivers, they are certainly professional mariners and filled in the role of professional crane drivers perfectly,” said Mueller. “They were able to discharge the cargo safely, efficiently, and without a scratch in the equipment.”

Effective communication among all parties was cited as a key reason for the successful evolution.

“The reception of cargo at the port and inland movement of cargo to the Adazi training area posed no challenges because of the well-established relationship and integrated planning leading up to the execution of the event,” said SanNicolas. “Missions like this allow us to continue to refine our role in theater-opening capabilities as part of a larger force. This is the first time the 950th [Transportation Company] conducted operations in this port in Latvia. The port operation further strengthened our training as global deployers.”