By Grady T. Fontana. MSC Far East
BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Senior government officials from the Republic of Korea (ROK) visited one of Military Sealift Command's (MSC) largest Maritime Prepositioning Force ships, Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/Roll-off Ship (LMSR) USNS Red Cloud, Aug. 19-20.
Busan Mayor Byung-soo Suh received a guided tour of the vessel, which can carry an entire U.S. Army task force, including 58 tanks, 48 other tracked vehicles, plus more than 900 trucks and other wheeled vehicles.
The event was hosted by the Military Sealift Command Office (MSCO) Korea, members of the ROK armed forces, and the crew of Red Cloud, which operationally are part of Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron Three (MPSRON 3).
"Our partnership with the ROK military is of vital importance to maintaining regional stability. Proximity of our strategic assets plays a large role in our ability to respond quickly," said U.S. Navy Capt. Robert A. Rochford, commodore of MPSRON 3. "The value of our partnership with the city and port of Busan, by allowing us to utilize pier space, is the key to our mission. Extending invitations to the local leadership is a small way to show our appreciation."
Brig. Gen. Kook Yoon, commanding general, ROK Transportation Command, and U.S. Navy Cmdr. Eric J. St. Peter, commanding officer, MSCO Korea, received the mayor and provided the tour along with civilian mariner Capt. Donald D. Agold, master of the Red Cloud.
Red Cloud is one of MSC's 19 LMSRs and is part of 36 ships in the U.S. military's prepositioning program. The ship is 950 feet in length, displaces more than 62,640 tons, and is operated by a crew of 30 merchant mariners under contract to MSC.
According to Agold, Red Cloud plays a crucial role in supporting efforts in the Pacific.
"The Red Cloud can carry vehicles and equipment to support humanitarian missions, as well as combat missions," he said.
Suh expressed, through his interpreter, that the tour was a very meaningful event to combine the ROK military, government officials, and U.S. personnel to foster better cooperation between the agencies. He added that during times of emergencies and contingencies, it is important the various agencies are communicating, which hasn't always happen in the past.
Ye-Jong Woo, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Busan Port Authority, toured the Red Cloud on a separate occasion. He stated the purpose of the tour of the Red Cloud was to develop a meaningful dialogue between regional government officials, and ROK and U.S. forces.
"I think it's important to incorporate Busan Port Authority with communications so we are better prepared during emergencies," he said through an interpreter. Woo overseas all port operation for the Busan region.
The ship visits were the initiative of Yoon, who thought local and regional government officials should be included in the dialogues between U.S. and ROK forces when it involves enhancing readiness and disaster response. It's all part of developing the alliance between the two nations, according to Yoon.
"When serving in a foreign country, it's always important to be mindful of local government agencies," said St. Peter. "Anytime we can bring in the mayor of Busan and the CEO of the Busan Port Authority, and show them the teamwork and cooperation that we have fostered with the ROK military, it assures them that we have a strong alliance. It motivates them to be part of our team."
MPSRON 3, operating in the Western Pacific, maintains tactical control of the 12 ships carrying afloat prepositioned U.S. military cargo for the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force. The squadron's mission is to enable force from the sea by providing swift and effective transportation of vital equipment and supplies for designated operations.
MSC operates approximately 115 non-combatant, civilian-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.