“East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” wrote Rudyard Kipling many years ago. Kipling, of course, had never witnessed a Rim of the Pacific exercise, which brings together navies of east and west for five weeks of military maneuvers.
Normally held every two years by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, R IMPAC is an international maritime exercise designed to foster and sustain the cooperative relationships critical to ensure the safety of the world’s sea lanes. This year’s RIM PAC, which took place primarily in Hawaiian waters, began on June 26 and ran through August 1. This was the largest RIMPAC in history, and participants included 22 nations and a force of 49 ships, 6 submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel. (Al though the bulk of the activity took place in Hawaii, some maneuvers occurred in south ern California.) The size of this year’s RIMPAC illustrates the Navy’s rebalance from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
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History was made on July 15 when Jessica Tolbe and Richard Cantrell refueled the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) replenishment ship QIANDAOHU (AO 886), which was in Hawaii for the 2014 RIMPAC Exercise. It marked the first time that the United States issued JP-5 fuel to a Chinese naval vessel. “Refueling the Chinese was a new experience for all of us here at Pearl Harbor,” said Jessica, a NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor fuel employee. “I hope our efforts provided the Qiandaohu with Aloha, and I hope they return in 2016.” (Photo by Jim Murray)
This year’s RIMPAC was the 24th ever held and, according to Admiral Harry Harris, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, it was “the most challenging joint air, sea and land multilateral exercise since the inception of RIMPAC in 1971.”
This was certainly the most closely-watched of all the RIMPACs, and that was due largely to the first-time participation of the People’s Republic of China. China not only participated, it also fielded the largest contingent of ships of any of the other 21 nations with the exception of the United States. China brought a replenishment ship, a frigate, a destroyer, and the hospital ship PEACE ARK.
In addition to China and the United States, this year’s exercise included units and personnel from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Tonga, and the United Kingdom.
RIMPAC focused on far more than military combat scenarios. It also included diving and salvage work, counter-piracy exercises, military medicine, and a large humanitarian assistance/disaster relief exercise. A “sinking exercise” enabled ships, submarines and aircraft to use live fire to sink the decommissioned USS Tuscaloosa (LST 1187) in waters 15,000 feet deep off the northwest coast of Kauai. Units from Brunei, Canada, Japan and the United States participated in the exercise, which provided the opportunity to gain proficiency in tactics, targeting and live firing.
The success of any large-scale maritime operation is contingent upon the availability of logistics, particularly the proverbial “beans and bullets” required by ship’s crews. At the best of times, this is a daunting requirement, but, during RIMPAC – with its near-overnight arrival of 49 ships and six submarines – it becomes a formidable, complex task. In many aspects, the sudden surge in activity is similar to what would be experienced during a time of war.
Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Pearl Harbor was the primary provider to the many commands that participated in RIMPAC. The logistics requirement in supporting such a large scale evolution is fraught with challenges, and those challenges are compounded by the many non-English speaking ship crews. Until the last ship raises its anchor, NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor’s workload undergoes a significant increase, particularly for those personnel, such as longshoremen and fuel employees, who are on the front lines of support. Nearly every division in every department finds itself stepping to the plate in support of RIMPAC, and, as the gears of supply begin to turn, NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor is revealed in its finest light. Statistics provide hard evidence of the extent of FLCPH’S contribution.
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As RIMPAC came to a close, the ships and submarines that participated in the exercise came together for a final “group photo” off the coastline of Hawaii. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) led the group. (Photo by MC1 Shannon Renfroe)
By RIMPAC’s end, the Fuel Department had provided a total of 23.5 million gallons of fuel to 13 coalition ships, 18 U.S. ships, 218 coalition aircraft, and 1,698 U.S. aircraft. Aircraft fueling take place at a NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor fuels division on the Air Force side of the Joint Base, and, in a normal month, approximately 611 aircraft are fueled; however, according to Fuel Distribution Supervisor Al Parks, the number of aircraft fuelings triples during RIMPAC. In another notable occurrence during RIMPAC 2014, the Fuel Department accomplished the first-ever refueling of four international oilers (Australia, China, New Zealand and the United States) on neighboring piers in a single day.
• Postal personnel processed more than 13,000 pieces of mail (148,000 pounds) for RIMPAC ships.
• Longshoremen with Ocean Terminals loaded or offloaded 2,282 pallets of material.
• Navy Reservists, longshoremen and logistics personnel conducted seven loadouts for replenishments-at-sea.
• The Contracting Department facilitated $1.19 million in support, with the bulk of the contracts attributed to vehicle and cellular phone rentals.
• The Logistics Readiness Squadron provided transportation to more than 800 RIMPAC participants and processed more than 630 short-tons of air cargo.
• Reservists and LSRs alike expedited 221 high-priority items and delivered $4.01 million in provisions to Subsistence Prime Vendor customers.
To help cope with the surge in activity, NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor called in “the posse” – the Naval Reserves. A year before RIMPAC even began, the call went out to Navy Operational Support Commands across the country for Reserve participation. In response, 156 personnel, most of whom were cargo handlers and logistics specialists, answered the call. RIMPAC provides far more than five weeks of work for the Reservists. It provides a realistic challenge that mirrors wartime conditions, and it facilitates reservist training and certification. Throughout RIMPAC, a walk to the waterfront would reveal dozens of reservists, some of whom would be driving forklifts and hysters, while others were engaged in cargo on-loads in preparation for the all-important replenishments-at-sea. (A related article in this SC Newsletter addresses RIMPAC Reserve support.)
NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor also established a Multinational Logistics Support Element (MLSE), which had a vital role in arranging the timely delivery of provisions, parts, mail, and other necessities to participating ships. This international group of “loggies” was headed by LCDR Eddie Piekusis of the Royal Australian Navy and also included individuals from Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Norway, Singapore, and the United States.
Faced daily with challenging logistics scenarios, the MLSE utilized the synergies of its entire team of partner nations and forged strong bonds of unity and camaraderie. The MLSE brought a significant improvement in overall logistics efficiency and mission accomplishment, and it laid the groundwork for increased coalition trust and cooperation in future operations. In the event of a multinational crisis, these relationships will significantly contribute to maritime security and stability throughout the Pacific Rim.
“RIMPAC 2014 was all about strengthening relationships and building partners’ capabilities. It was a great opportunity for NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor to work closely with Navy Region Hawaii, Pacific Fleet, U.S. Surface Forces Middle Pacific, THIRD Fleet, and other important Asia/Pacific partners in order to promote regional stability and to enhance the interoperability of the combined RIMPAC force,” said Captain Mark Wheeler, NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor Commanding Officer.
When the last RIMPAC participant hauled aboard its final pallet of provisions and then raised its anchor and set sail for home, RIMPAC 2014 had come to an end. But although the exercise had ended, the partnerships and camaraderie that were forged during the five weeks will long endure. Bridges were built with other navies that will be invaluable to the promotion of peace, safety and security in the Pacific. Thanks not only to the efforts of NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor, but also to thousands of others, this was certainly the most successful RIMPAC ever held.
“The world was watching, and you executed superbly,” said Admiral Harry Harris, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, in a message to RIMPAC 2014 participants and supporting commands.
By Lt. James D. Roberts, SC, USN; Supply Officer, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific