Since July, Military Sealift command’s Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF 9) has supported Marines taking part in Koa Moana 21 in the Republic of Palau.
Koa Moana, which means “Ocean Warrior,” is designed to strengthen and enhance relationships between the United States and partner nations in the Indo-Pacific region, improve interoperability with local security establishments and serve as a humanitarian assistance survey team afloat in support of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command strategic and operational objectives.
“Joint exercises like KM21 are critical to growing and cultivating Pacific-region partnerships throughout the Seventh Fleet Area of Responsibility,” said Capt. Victor M. Martino, master of the USNS City of Bismarck.
“This region is a dynamic one and could require a joint and combined response at any time. Exercises like this help us understand the maritime environment, interagency and host nation capabilities and concerns and enable all of us to be better prepared partners should we be called on to work together.”
In addition to the civil service mariners aboard USNS City of Bismarck, approximately 200 U.S. Marines and Sailors from 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and I MEF Information Group and Coast Guardsmen from Coast Guard District 14 are taking part in Koa Moana 21.
Participants, like the USNS City of Bismarck crew, take part in exercise activities that enhance interoperability necessary during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. These include engineering projects on the island of Peleliu and the capital island, Babeldaob. Other capabilities exercised as part of Koa Moana include medical, maritime law enforcement and explosive ordnance disposal.
During one interagency law enforcement training event, the crew of USNS City of Bismarck, U.S. Marines and agents with the Palau Narcotics Enforcement Agency conducted training with a team of canine working dogs.
“The crew of the USNS City of Bismarck gains valuable experience working with not only military component commands and international partners but also with Department of Defense and U.S. State Department representatives to accomplish the mission,” Martino said.
“The importance of interoperability cannot be overstated as joint forces continue to refine, share and learn from each other’s procedures and processes. Moreover, the merging of cultures ensures enduring relationships can continue to flourish in both a peace and contested environment setting.”
USNS City of Bismarck performed various other functions during Koa Moana, providing the Marines involved with a base of operations that includes berthing, flexible meal times, communications support, including secure communications, and working spaces for exercise planners. Martino explains that the civil service mariners onboard modified their daily routines to ensure mission success and maximum flexibility.
“The utilization of the EPF class-vessel during KM21 provided the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army commands the additional assistance and support required to solidify a successful KM21 mission. The civilian mariners aboard the USNS City of Bismarck embraced those challenges and were happy to assist in meeting bilateral goals,” Martino said.
“The Marines and people I have personally met in the Republic of Palau are overwhelmingly eager, hard-working and heart-felt professionals. It has been an absolute privilege to engage with them during my time in the Republic of Palau during Koa Moana.”
USNS City of Bismarck continues to support the exercise, which runs through December.
Military Sealift Command Far East ensures approximately 50 ships in the Indo-Pacific region, including City of Bismarck, are manned, trained and equipped to deliver essential supplies, fuel, cargo and equipment to warfighters, both at sea and on shore.
As the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet employs 50-70 ships and submarines across the Western Pacific and Indian oceans. U.S. 7th Fleet routinely operates and interacts with 35 maritime nations while conducting missions to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.