US Marines arrive in New Caledonia for exercise Koa Moana

USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2) sits anchored off shore of Kiribati during Koa Moana 17. Photo: US Navy

U.S. Marines embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2) arrived in New Caledonia June 25 to take part in Koa Moana 17 (Ocean Warrior).

The Koa Moana exercise series enhances senior military leader engagements between allied and partner nations with a collective interest in military-to-military relations and to discuss key aspects of military operations, capability development, and interoperability.

From June-September 2017 U.S. Marines from California and Hawaii will participate in Koa Moana 17 events in Kiribati, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

Working alongside these partner nations, the Marines also work alongside the crew of the USNS Sacagawea, attending shipboard training, drills, and sharing workload duties during their time onboard.

MSC contracted civilian mariners assigned to the USNS Sacagawea such as able-bodied seaman and deck hands operate ship elevators and cranes, which assist in the movement of U.S. Marine equipment used specifically for this exercise.

“The ship can hold up to 197 crew and passengers total, as well as having cargo hold space, which can hold food and supplies for up to six months at a time,” said Captain Robert Sylvester, Master of USNS Sacagawea. “We are the only ship involved in this exercise in the entire South Pacific. Our primary focus for Koa Moana 17 is supporting the Marines in getting them and their equipment where they need to be, when they need to be there. With our ship’s capabilities, we’re the perfect one for the job.”

The USNS Sacagawea is a dry cargo/ammunition ship, which provides ammunition, food, repair parts, stores and small quantities of fuel for the U.S. Marine Corps as well as other military service branches. The ship can also be tasked to respond in a disaster in the form of providing equipment and supplies to a target area.

Once the phase of the exercise has been completed in New Caledonia, the embarked U.S. Marines and Sacagawea crew will sail to Tonga for the next phase of Koa Moana 17.

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