Military Sealift Command (MSC) chartered ship MV Cape Horn (T-AKR 5068) continued its voyage through the Pacific and arrived at Sattahip, Thailand, to offload equipment in support of exercise Cobra Gold 2024 (CG24), Feb. 17-22.

The vessel began the voyage from its home base in San Francisco and took on cargo in Tacoma, Wash.; Honolulu; Anchorage, Alaska; and Okinawa, Japan, prior to arrival.

Thailand was the first point of discharge at the ports of Toong Pronge and Sattahip, and the ship offloaded approximately 260 end items and containers in about three days. Cape Horn departed Thailand Feb. 22 and journeys to its next port to offload more equipment for other missions.

The commercial ship is part of the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) fleet of vessels. The RRF is a subset of vessels within the Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) National Defense Reserve Fleet ready to support the rapid worldwide deployment of U.S. military forces.

According to the MARAD website, RFF provides nearly 50 percent of government-owned surge sealift capability.

This ship has a significant cargo capacity and it’s multimodal, which makes Cape Horn ideal for the charter.

Cape Horn is a 750-foot long roll-on, roll-off (RO/RO) cargo vessel with four decks of cargo space. It can accommodate 186,000 sq. ft. of cargo, which equates to about 4.3 acres of space that can equal roughly 38,000 tons of cargo.

Despite its massive presence, the ship’s characteristically low draft allows for this impressive amount of tonnage while still getting into smaller ports.

“We can easily carry significant amounts of containerized, and roll-on/roll-off cargo,” said Captain Elizabeth M. Neumyer, civilian contracted mariner and Cape Horn’s master. “But just as important, this vessel is large enough to be militarily useful, but small enough to get into the smaller ports. Whereas, most commercially viable ships right now are too big for a lot of the ports the military needs to go.”

Oversight of the offload of equipment in Thailand was conducted by a detachment of the U.S. Army’s Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC).

“The (SDDC) team goes on the vessel and they direct the stevedores what to download, and how to download it, and with the help of the actual (exercise) training audience, they direct them to safely discharge all the equipment.” said Army Lt. Col. Gregory B. Andrews, commander, 835th Transportation Battalion, 599th Transportation Brigade, SDDC, out of Okinawa. “Once the items are off the vessel, they are staged at the marshalling area for onward movement to the respective training area.”

The features of Cape Horn fully complement the uniqueness of the mission and facilitates an efficient discharge.

“This platform is great because we love the RO/RO capability,” said Andrews. “It makes it really easy to be able to unlatch the stored vehicles and discharge them right off the ramp.”

To support the smooth discharge of equipment, MSC deployed a seven-member Reserve-component team from various Reserve expeditionary port units (EPU) in the U.S. to assist with port operations.

“There’s a maritime aspect that’s inherent with EPUs and strategic sealift officer communities that you may not find in land-based components,” said Navy Reserve component Chief Gunner’s Mate Joshua Heitmann, command senior chief, MSC EPU Pearl Harbor. “This training opportunity allows us to familiarize with the process of port operations with ships, and better engage with SDDC and all the other components of port operations.”

According to Heitmann, an EPU is a highly mobile unit that can deploy rapidly anywhere in the world to support overseas contingency operations, setup port operations and establish presence where there is no MSC or U.S. Navy support established in order to receive cargo ships: government owned, government contracted or chartered ships.

Represented by EPU members from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Alameda, Calif.; St. Louis, Mo.; Seattle; and New York; the team is part of the Cobra Gold deploy detachment, and will be relieved by other EPU members of the redeploy detachment at the conclusion of the exercise.

EPUs play a crucial role that is sometimes overlooked. Their contributions are not tethered to certain tasks or responsibilities but on providing expertise in varying situations, a catchall as it relates to their sea-fairing background.

“Our role is to make sure that the port is suitable for the ships that are coming in,” said Heitmann. “I think we’ve been maintaining a good schedule and everybody has learned something valuable toward the expeditionary side of port operations. In return, back at home, I hope these Sailors can provide their findings, and what they’ve learned back to benefit their Sailors.”

CG24 is the 43rd iteration of the Joint Cobra Gold series of exercises. CG24 emphasizes coordination on readiness, civic action, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and seeks to expand regional cooperation and collaboration in these vital areas.

This exercise demonstrates U.S. ongoing readiness to project forces throughout the region in support of Allies and partners to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.

MSC directs and supports operations for approximately 140 civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea, conduct specialized missions, preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, perform a variety of support services, and move military equipment and supplies to deployed U.S. forces.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2024, MSC exists to support the joint warfighter across the full spectrum of military operations, with a workforce that includes approximately 6,000 Civil Service Mariners and 1,100 contract mariners, supported by 1,500 shore staff and 1,400 active duty and Reserve military personnel.

MSC Far East supports the U.S. 7th Fleet and ensures approximately 50 ships in the Indo-Pacific Region are manned, trained, and equipped to deliver essential supplies, fuel, cargo, and equipment to warfighters, both at sea and on shore. U.S. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.