USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JCC-20) -- Mount Whitney crew members and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa service members participated in their 23rd replenishment at sea (RAS) April 26 bringing on stores by vertical replenishment (vertrep) via H-46D Sea Knight helicopters and connected replenishment (conrep) via a fuel cable to USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196).
At the same time, the Mount Whitney's aircrew assisted in another replenishment, ferrying supplies from Kanawha to USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), a U.S. Naval destroyer. Altogether, Arleigh Burke took on 60 pallets of food and other stores.
Also known as underway replenishments, these evolutions have enabled CJTF-HOA to conduct continuous counter-terrorism operations aboard Mount Whitney in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean for about 125 days of the past 130 days without having to pull into a port, which can pose security dangers. For example, USS Cole was rammed by a small craft loaded with explosives during a port call in Yemen in 2000.
An RAS typically involves at least two ships: one that needs to be re-supplied and another one that replenishes, which in this case was USNS Kanawha, provided by the Military Sealift Command's Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force program. Kanawha replenished both Mount Whitney and Arleigh Burke during this RAS.
This particular RAS was much needed by Mount Whitney and one of the largest to date, according to Chief Warrant Officer David L. Lankford, ship's boatswain.
"Our last RAS was almost four weeks ago when we only took on 37 pallets, and I think everyone could see that by the lack of fruits and dwindling supplies," said Lankford. "This was by far our largest RAS during this deployment."
In addition, the ship took on approximately 250,000 gallons of fuel and more than 133 pallets of supplies, according to Lankford.
Receiving stores and fuel is only part of an RAS, however, because once everything was transferred from Kanawha, Mount Whitney still had a lot of work to accomplish.
"I had approximately 45 deck personnel working along with a 100-person working party from the other services, including ranks from O-4 and below, to help move the pallets once they are aboard," said Lankford, a Chesapeake, Va. native. "Pallets were moved from approximately 1 to 5 p.m. and after that, service members were still stocking supplies below decks until 2 a.m."
For those aboard the ship, helping with the RAS is a win-win situation. Everyone helps out and everyone benefits.
According to Lankford, the command and control vessel, Mount Whitney, is not normally used for sustained sea operations.
"We are setting records every time we conduct an RAS," he said.
To date, the ship has taken on 1,146 pallets of food and supplies; 3,029,000 gallons of diesel fuel; and 139,000 gallons of aircraft fuel.
The crew has two more underway replenishments scheduled before concluding their deployment and returning home.
The ship left its homeport in Norfolk, Va. Nov. 11 and is almost in its sixth month serving in the war against terrorism.
USS Mount Whitney is the flagship of the headquarters element of CJTF-HOA whose mission is to detect, disrupt and defeat terrorists in the Horn of Africa region.