By Capt. Don Williams
Technical Director, Operational Logistics
Military Sealift Command
Our Navy honored Military Sealift Command’s logistics team with a prestigious Admiral Stan Arthur Award as the Joint Logistics Team of the Year for 2012. This dedicated group played a crucial role in converting USS Ponce (AFSB (I) 15) from a landing platform dock ship to interim afloat forward staging base, getting it quickly ready for sea. Previous conversions on this scale typically took 18 months; the logistics team helped do it in one-third the time, saving close to $2.5 million in the process. Ponce displays a greatly expanded toolbox complete with emerging technologies thanks to the linchpin of MSC’s logistics organization.
In late 2011, our Navy had slated USS Ponce – designated then as LPD 15 – for decommissioning. The MSC logistics team spearheaded efforts to breathe new life into the repurposed ship. Well into her decommissioning cycle, this extraordinary effort required the collective expertise of the entire logistics competency, as well as working with stakeholders to meet high operational expectations and an aggressive refurbishment schedule.
Our team capitalized on our proven distance support business model for the combat logistics force, expanding Ponce’s capacity for cargo load and cargo fuel missions to serve a diverse customer base. We established a logistics baseline for existing and newly installed equipment, ensuring support for future repairs, alterations and outfitting efforts. We worked closely with type commanders to get Ponce ready for aviation and load management mission requirements. And we upgraded ship spaces for Ponce’s crew, including a civil service mariner-operated ship’s store.
Now, Ponce serves proudly in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility as the Navy’s first dedicated afloat forward staging base.
Ponce remains a capable ship even as she celebrated her 42nd birthday July 10. She added support ship functions for mine countermeasures, Special Forces, Riverine, joint and partnership/coalition embarks to the legacy well deck, busy flight deck and cargo storage. The ship also boasts the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle as an asset.
And in 2014, Ponce is slated to get a solid-state laser deployed to help develop a prototype system for surface combatants.
Ponce also is one of four ships in the Navy with a hybrid crewing system of civil service mariners and uniformed Navy Sailors, under the command of Capt. Jon P. Rodgers.
The ship is in high demand for operations and major international naval exercises like International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 and 2013, which the ship recently concluded. Ponce operates forward – ready to provide cutting edge, flexible capabilities to support warfighters in the region. We’re proud to have helped make that happen.
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