The commodore of the Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron Three, Capt. Len Remias, finally made good on his promise to give members of the Rotary Club of Saipan a tour of some of his ships yesterday at the Saipan Lagoon.
Remias and 15 Rotary members led by president Laila Y. Boyer couldn’t have picked a better day to come aboard the preposition ships. Aside from the perfect weather, which created little to no waves, the trip had an added bonus, as the USNS Wheeler just happens to be on Saipan.
A one-of-a-kind vessel, the Wheeler is an offshore petroleum distribution systems, which pumps either fuel or water up to eight miles from ship to shore when facilities ashore are unavailable.
Wheeler Capt. John Mansfield said his ship comes handy equally in wartime situations and for humanitarian aid.
“We haven’t used it to pump fuel yet. It doesn’t need a deep draft harbor. Aside from humanitarian aid, we can in less than 48 hours deploy our amphibious LARCS (Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo) into the beach to bring water.”
After a tour of the unique ship, Rotarians got an added treat when Mansfield had his staff demonstrate the Wheeler’s firefighting capability by blasting seawater up to 300 feet from its powerful hoses and moving it around in a spectacular fountain-like display.
Remias and the Rotarians then headed to MPS 3’s flagship, the USNS Bobo, which like its sister ships the Dahl, Lummus, Pililaau, Sacagawea, and Williams carry equipment and supplies to support a Marine Expeditionary Brigade of 15,000 troops up to 30 days.
Inside the ship’s cavernous interior, the wide-eyed visitors got a glimpse of the war materiel stored aboard, including bridge-laying tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, military earthmovers, and troop carriers.
Rotarians also got to sample MPS 3’s much-talked about mess hall, with a tasty lunch that consisted of grilled ribeye steak and creamy shrimp scampi.
Before going back ashore, the Rotarians cruised past the USNS Soderman. The U.S. Army ship, like its sister ships Charlton and Red Cloud, has a cargo carrying capacity of over 300,000 square feet, allowing U.S. troops to be self-sustained in a crisis.
Boyer thanked Remias for giving the Rotarians a “wonderful experience” visiting the ships of the MPS 3.
“I was so glad were able to connect with the staff and officers of the MPS 3. We made this a partnership with our Las Vegas Night and our other community events. We’re so glad that we’re able to see what they do and the work that they do. We really appreciate this opportunity.”
The commodore, for his part, said he was glad to accommodate their request and was, in a way, just making good on a promise.
“I’m just following up on my promise since September to be able to invite Rotary Club since we established a relationship with the community. We participated in various events—the Las Vegas Night, the Trunk or Treat. So this is our way of showing you what we do and to just inform you all on what it is exactly we’re doing here since we’ve been here since 1986.”
Former Rotary president Pete Schilling said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the ships.
“It was a terrific opportunity to meet the crew and actually see how big and powerful these boats are. We got to see a side of Saipan we don’t normally see. I get seasick so often I don’t get out of here. It’s amazing to see Saipan from out here. The boats are amazing. The crew is amazing. I’m just very impressed with their seamanship. The engine room, you don’t see a spot of oil or a spot of rust anywhere. You could eat off the engines. You can fry an egg on the engine really. Everything is absolutely spotless.”
Community services director Tom Thornbourgh was equally impressed. “It’s a whole different world out here. Words can’t describe. It was a big treat, especially the lunch. It was really awesome. Now we know that the grey ships are the Army’s equipment and the black and white are for Marines. We were on the Bobo so we saw the Marines’ equipment. It was pretty neat; we saw the bridge tank. My house was never that clean. Everywhere we went, not a speck of dirt. You can eat off the floors. The lunch (ribeye steak) was the cherry on top!”
Incoming president Richard Cody thanked Remias for the opportunity to tour the vessels under his command.
“The commodore seems to be different from previous commodores because he embraces the community and work with the community. I’m hopeful that following commodores will continue that relationship with the community and the Rotary Club.”
Cody added that seeing the ships up close also gave him a sense of comfort, knowing that Saipan and its residents are protected.