Prepositioned ships always in right place, ready for right time
July 4, 2006
For this year’s Fourth of July festivities, Chief Steward Dorray Saberon doesn’t want to serve up typical hamburgers or hot dogs.
“For the first time, I’m going to attempt to roast two little piggies,” said the 22-year civilian mariner. Normally, not much of a challenge, she said. Tuesday, however, she’ll be doing it from the galley of a ship.
Saberon is one of 30 civilian mariners and 10 active duty sailors on the MV 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo, the flagship of the Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron One, which sails in the Mediterranean Sea.
Maritime Prepositioning cargo ships have no homeport; they remain at sea year-round.
“As a European Command/6th Fleet asset, [the squadron] plays a crucial but low-profile role in keeping this [region] ready to respond to fast-breaking military and humanitarian crises,” said Navy Capt. Nick Holman, commander of Sealift Logistics Command Europe.
Run by the Military Sealift Command, the Navy has three squadrons constantly at sea worldwide. Each is placed strategically in global hotspots. Squadron Two is in the Indian Ocean, and Squadron Three sails off of Guam.
It can be a hard — and sometimes lonely — life at sea, Saberon said.
Civilian crewmembers sail four months on, and have four months off.
“It’s definitely a different life system, but the ship has become my home away from home,” said the 47-year-old mariner, currently one of two women among the 30-member civilian crew. “We get spoiled out here, with a bunch of brothers.”
Active duty sailors are assigned to the flagship for one-year, unaccompanied tours.
“We don’t get the kind of exposure sailors on a destroyer or aircraft carrier get ... but this is truly a great way to see the world,” said squadron commander Navy Capt. Edward Zurey Jr.
During his year, he visited eight ports (some repeatedly) in Spain, four in Italy, two in Greece, and one each in Croatia and Malta.
The ships carry equipment for the Marine Corps’ combined Marine Air-Ground Task Force, or MAGTF, which vary in size and inventory depending on missions.
“The equipment is always forward deployed all the time in Europe,” Zurey said of his squadron, which serves Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C. “If a crisis ever develops ... they have the equipment already out here. The Marines would fly into wherever we landed their equipment.”
The Europe-based squadron is made up of the Bobo, the USNS Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat, and the MV Tech Sgt. John A. Chapman.
The noncombatant cargo ships have taken on quasi-military roles, as the Wheat did during the Baltic Operations 2006 exercises by providing “a friendly environment” for NATO members to practice ship-boarding maneuvers, said Capt. Don Pigott, the Bobo’s civilian skipper.
During Pigott’s 15 years on the Bobo, Internet connectively has been the greatest lifestyle improvement, he said.
“We can now get e-mails every day. E-mails from our children, and that has made life a lot better,” Pigott said.