By Tina C. Stillions, Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka
Director of Corporate Communications
Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center (NAVSUP FLC) Yokosuka Site Sydney provided support to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) during Operation Deep Freeze, which kicked off in December 2017 and culminated in February.
Polar Star is an operational icebreaker that supports the National Science Foundation’s research stations in Antarctica by delivering critical supplies and fuel. Operation Deep Freeze is the U.S. military operation that supports research and resupply efforts.
NAVSUP FLC Site Sydney has played a role in past Operation Deep Freeze exercises, and had the opportunity to support Polar Star and her crew once again this year.
“Site Sydney is located on the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) base HMAS Kuttabul,” said Site Sydney Site Director Lt. Massoud Koleini. “I coordinate with RAN port services to arrange many of the host nation support items, such as acquiring a brow, fender, quarantine waste bins and line handlers. I also provide assistance with customs, material handling and postal coordination.”
According to Koleini, the military provided multiple support services to Polar Star during Operation Deep Freeze, and Site Sydney was a key team player in logistics facilitation.
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The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star breaks ice in McMurdo Sound near Antarctica. –photo by PAC Nick Ameen
“Postal support is provided by the U.S. Navy and Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Air Postal Squadron in Sydney,” said Koleini. “The PACAF detachment in Sydney handled all DoD (Department of Defense) and State Department mail in and out of Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the nearby Pacific Islands. Working hand-in-hand with our NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Fleet Mail Center in Yokohama, Navy mail routers in San Diego, the postal team on board Polar Star and commercial airline representatives, routed close to 400 kilograms of mail during Operation Deep Freeze.”
The multifaceted operation allowed teams to plan, coordinate and move all postal items to the right place and on schedule. Teamwork ensured necessary care packages, Amazon parcels, official mail, tax statements and other correspondence arrived to meet the ship while it was completing its mission.
Besides postal support, there are other logistics components essential to the success of an operation the size of Operation Deep Freeze. For instance, in Australia, fuel is procured through a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Energy-Australian Fuel Services Branch fuel exchange agreement; food stores are procured through a DLA Troop Support blanket purchase agreement. Multiple award contracts (MACs) are often used for husbanding support services, which is a type of contract NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka awards to procure vessel husbanding support services in non-Navy ports, such as Suva, Fiji.
Polar Star Supply Officer, Chief Warrant Officer Danique Hodge, a warranted contracting officer, said almost every conceivable service was readily available and easily accessible during their stop at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam prior to sailing south. “This is one of the most delightful port calls, because we stay on the Navy base and it’s literally a one-stop shop,” said Hodge. “Last year, we received support in the engineering department. This year, our issue was with certification, but we received help transcribing the Coast Guard certification into Navy certification to authorize the use of heavy equipment.”
Polar Star usually makes multiple port visits on its way to and from the Arctic. Polar Star made stops at Lyttelton, New Zealand; Hobart, Australia; and Suva, Fiji. During each of the visits, Site Sydney provided distance support and advice to Hodge, while working to ensure requirements were covered.
“Considering the scope of Polar Star’s annual mission, not everything goes as planned,” said Koleini. “The ongoing federal budgeting issues this year caused some delay in the awarding of husbanding support contracts for all ports. But overall, I’d have to say, our part of the mission was a success.”
The Coast Guard’s Polar Star fills a much-needed role in support of Operation Deep Freeze. As the only ice breaker in the U.S. fleet capable of clearing a path to the Antarctica, it puts NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Sydney in a key position to participate and support a truly unique mission.