The US Navy’s 7th Fleet supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14) joined an international task force led by Australian Defence Force searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 off the Western Coast of Australia yesterday.
The U.S. 7th Fleet deployed Chavez in response to a formal Joint Operations Command request to the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) for tanker support. Deployment of the Dry cargo/ammunition ship speaks to the U.S. Navy’s enduring commitment to allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, and the ability to respond rapidly where it matters, when it matters.
“Although a crisis has brought us to these waters, the team aboard Chavez is standing by and proud to support such a vital mission,” said Chavez’s civil service master Capt. Rollin Bellfi.
In the coming days Chavez is scheduled to conduct underway replenishment operations with Australian naval ships actively searching for MH370, including HMAS Success (OR 304), HMAS Perth (FFH 157) and HMAS Toowoomba (FFH 156).
Chavez is the U.S. Navy’s newest Combat Logistics Force ship which is operated by a crew of 125 civil service mariners. These ships also have a complement of 11 U.S. Navy Sailors who provide operational support and supply coordination.
“This is an unexpected assignment, but our logistics ships are used to responding quickly to emergent requirements,” said COMLOG WESTPAC replenishment officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gentry Debord.
Prior to setting sail for the remote waters of the southern Indian Ocean, Chavez loaded provisions and fuel in Singapore. There, a U.S. Navy logistics team assigned to Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC) and MSC Far East worked with the Royal Australian Navy Liaison Office (RANLO) to load supplies and fuel destined for Australian ships.
Chavez, operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC), provides underway replenishment of dry cargo, fuel, and ammunition to U.S. and coalition naval ships operating at sea. The 689 foot Chavez is expected to take on additional provisions and freight in Fleet Base West at Stirling, Western Australia to further support task forces ships.
Press Release, April 11, 2014; Image: US Navy