Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) conducted their largest replenishment-at-sea in more than two years Dec. 1, receiving 181 pallets of supplies from the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO 19).
Previously, the largest replenishment-at-sea for the ship took place during Iwo Jima’s last deployment in 2015.
“We had a good idea that this vertical replenishment (VERTREP) was going to be a long evolution, but the team effort led to a very successful, effective, and safe replenishment,” said Cmdr. Richie Jenkins, Iwo Jima’s supply officer. “Whenever you have this amount of cargo coming to the ship, it tests the endurance of the entire crew aboard. With that said, this evolution was an across-the-board success in that it provided critical sustainment following a month of operations at sea and gave a glimpse of what we’ll likely face on deployment. We are better prepared for what we can expect on deployment, as we may be conducting these as frequently as once a week.”
Maneuvering the 181 pallets required significant planning for the personnel on the flight deck, hangar bay, in passageways and in the air.
“The flight deck on a United States Navy ship can be one of the most dangerous places to work,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Jerry Pryuer. “In this type of environment, with all the equipment in the air above you, it’s even more imperative to keep your head on a swivel. Safety played a key part here today, and we didn’t lose one pallet or have a single injury. That alone shows that today was a great success.”
Jenkins added the VERTREP provided another opportunity for the blue-green team to work together and continue the relationship that has been building since Iwo Jima and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) began training earlier this year.
“All the supplies, food and mail that came here was for the Sailors and Marines aboard,” said Jenkins. “They worked together just as they have over the past few months while performing Defense Support to Civil Authority and executing our pre-deployment training exercises as we prepare for next year’s deployment. This really was a team effort, and I’m proud of how they came together to accomplish this major milestone.”
Iwo Jima, components of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 26th MEU are conducting a Combined Composite Training Unit Exercise that is the culmination of training for the Navy-Marine Corps team and will certify them for deployment.
The Iwo Jima ARG embarks the 26th MEU and is comprised of Iwo Jima, the dock transport ship USS New York (LPD 21), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 21), Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22, components of Naval Beach Group (NBG) 2 and the embarked staff of PHIBRON 4.