The convoy was conducted as part of DEFENDER-Europe 20, a multi-month, joint-service military exercise demonstrating the United States’ ability to deploy combat-credible forces to Northern Europe in defense of NATO.
The Strategic Sealift Officers, all Navy Reservists who hold merchant marine licenses, served as TACADs aboard roll-on/roll-off vessels USNS Benavidez and MSC-chartered vessels, M/V Patriot and M/V Resolve. As the ships carried a full battalion of Army equipment from the United States to Europe, TACADs relayed critical information between the civilian ships and their Navy escort, advising the ships’ masters of potential threats and training the civilian crews to operate in contested environments.
“The TACADs possess a solid military background which allows them to interact better between the ships’ crews and the active-duty military and the combatant fleet,” said Capt. Hans Lynch, Commodore, Combined Task Force 42. “In the last five years, there has been an increased emphasis on including Merchant Marine shipping in large-scale exercises to enhance tactical proficiency. Exercises that incorporate convoy operations are an extension of that ongoing tactical training.”
“The SSO forces are civilian mariners by nature,” said Cmdr. Vincent D’Eusanio, TACAD Program Manager. “Having one of our SSO Naval Reservists speak with the [civilian] crew while in uniform helps to set the tone and bring credibility to the program.”
DEFENDER-Europe 20 provided TACADs an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the unique strengths they bring to the Navy’s agile warfighting readiness.
“Since we sail on these types of ships in our civilian jobs most of the year, we’re very familiar with the capabilities, challenges, and operating environment of the merchant marine fleet,” said Ens. Christian Morris, TACAD aboard the MSC contract vessel M/V Patriot. “We’re perfectly positioned to bridge the military-civilian communications gap in order to deliver flexible combat power across the ocean.”
MSC operates approximately 120 civilian-crewed naval auxiliary ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.