NEWS | March 24, 2021

MSC CART: At Sea and Ready to Supply the Fight on Day One

By Cmdr. Jonathan Gibbs, NR CART Det. Charlie and Lt. Cmdr. James Trudeau NR CART Det. Alpha

In a normal year, Military Sealift Command’s Navy Cargo Afloat Rig Team (CART) provides real-world, high-impact operational support, wherever and whenever needed. Although 2020 was everything but a normal year, when MSC requested Reserve support in April during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30 CART Reserve Sailors answered the call.
SLIDESHOW | 5 images | 210324-N-IC246-0004 In a normal year, Military Sealift Command’s Navy Cargo Afloat Rig Team (CART) provides real-world, high-impact operational support, wherever and whenever needed. Although 2020 was everything but a normal year, when MSC requested Reserve support in April during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30 CART Reserve Sailors answered the call.

NORFOLK — In a normal year, Military Sealift Command’s Navy Cargo Afloat Rig Team (CART) provides real-world, high-impact operational support, wherever and whenever needed. Although 2020 was anything but a normal year, when MSC requested Reserve support in April during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30 CART Reserve Sailors answered the call.


CART’s mission is to provide qualified and experienced underway replenishment (UNREP) rig teams to augment civilian crews on Combat Logistics Force (CLF) platforms. As the pandemic began to develop in early last year, the mission evolved by the hour as the fleet positioned itself to provide support during the crisis. Rapid support from Reserve Sailors was instrumental in keeping the fleet resupplied and on-station in U.S Second, Third, and Fifth Fleet (C5F) areas of responsibility (AOR).

“In an unprecedented year, these Sailors volunteered to answer the call when they were needed most,” said CART Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Kevin Bosse. “These were not involuntarily mobilized Sailors — these were Sailors who were ready to show up on day one and provide the critical strategic depth we need so our fleet can project combat power without missing a beat.”

With the U.S. in various stages of COVID-19 lockdown, the fleet still needed to be resupplied via underway replenishment (UNREP). MSC’s civil service mariner (CIVMAR) centric workforce continually provides support keeping our warfighters on-station, but the COVID-19 quarantines and lockdowns resulted in underway manning challenges.

Taking an all hands on deck approach, multiple echelons, including MSC headquarters, regional operations officers and ships along with the NR CART DETs and multiple Navy Operational Support Centers (NOSCs) provided the seamless coordination needed to get the supporting Sailors cleared for active duty and on-station.

“When we received the preliminary volunteer roster from CART, we immediately went to work prescreening all requirements and ensuring that our members had their medical, dental, training and security requirements precleared so we could rapidly generate orders and get them on station,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Cecil Falls, operations Petty Officer at NOSC Lemoore, California.

Many of the CART Sailors transitioned from notification to on-station Restriction of Movement (ROM) status within 48 hours.

The initial requests for operational support came from two separate MSC ships in support of C5F operations. CART Reserve Sailors were needed to augment the CIVMAR crews of USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3) and USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8).

MSC asked for CART Sailors to volunteer for orders in two Phases. Phase I was the immediate call for support from April through July. Phase II was an extension through the end of November.

Split into two teams out of San Diego and Norfolk, the Sailors were tapped to support UNREPS in each AOR. The immediate goal was to get the two teams to their point of embarkation and into a ROM status to quarantine.

What seemed as an aggressive push to “hurry up and wait,” was an intentional and crucial part of ensuring overall mission success. One of the greatest concerns during the early stage of COVID-support was to ensure that MSC ships were not compromised by bringing the virus onboard and potentially jeopardizing the ability to resupply warfighters.

Getting to the ships required significant logistics planning and flexibility. After completing all of the country clearances, theater specific pre-mission training, Isolated Personnel Report submissions, special ordnance medical clearances, and navigating a tricky itinerary, the teams travelled to their ultimate destinations.

The Reserve Sailors were immediately integrated into the crews on MSC ships. Except for their Navy uniforms, the CART teams were otherwise indistinguishable from the CIVMAR crews.

“Quickly showing them that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty, maintaining a positive attitude towards hard work, and that you are capable of immediately stepping into any position on a rig team goes a long way,” said Gunner’s Mate 1st Class First Shawn Hajdysz, the East Coast COVID-19 mission lead onboard the USNS Patuxent (T-AO 201).

The rig team duties ranged across the spectrum of an all-hands-on-deck effort as rig captains, station riggers, signalmen, phone talkers and safety observers. The combined teams transferred more than $3 billion worth of mission essential consumables and materiel, keeping warfighting ships on station and operating forward.

CART chiefs worked closely with MSC regional operational officers to group the right Sailors to the right teams. Assigning junior Sailors to more experienced teams leveraged the knowledge to mentor and train those who had only completed basic CART training.

“Deckplate leadership and mentoring from the experienced to the junior CART Sailors continues to be the cornerstone of our success,” said CART Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Senior Chief Michael Nothdorf. “Our leaders take the time to identify our Sailors’ strengths and experience levels so we can more effectively focus on peer-to-peer development and bring each person up to the same high-level competency. We continue to improve by leveraging our best asset, our Sailors.”

For Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Recruit Parker Criqui, a CART team member from Bakersfield, California, the mission was his first aboard an MSC ship.

“The more experienced and senior Sailors really looked out for me,” Criqui said. “Working on an MSC ship performing real-world operations was exciting. Knowing that my shipmates were there for me, providing tips and advice, keeping me safe, and setting me up for success allowed me to quickly become an impactful member of the rig team.”

Master of USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3) Capt. Adel Desouki, and master of USNS Guadalupe (T-AO 200), Capt. David Kramer both said the Reserve team’s critical surge capacity support was another successful example of MSC CART and CIVMARS teamwork — showcasing the U.S. Navy’s power projection at sea.

“These Reserve Sailors stepped up to a challenge and provided high-impact contributions in support of real-world Navy operations,” Shepard said. “The impact of augmenting the CIVMAR crews during these demanding UNREP operations during a global pandemic continues to reflect positively upon the Sailors who step up to these challenges.”

Kramer added that, “These Sailors continue to impress us with their professionalism and capabilities they bring to our mission. After they had fully integrated into our crew and we saw how valuable they were to mission success, we submitted a special request to MSC to extend their orders and keep them onboard until we completed our planned operational requirements and returned to San Diego.”

As the fiscal year 2020 missions wrapped up, The CART team had deployed onboard eight separate MSC ships. Working alongside the CIVMAR crews they had contributed more than 4,000 days of operational support, performed over 200 UNREPS; completed the safe STREAM transfer of more than 22 million gallons of fuel, 7,000 pallets of consumables, ordnance, and materiel; and the in-port transfer of more than 80 vertical launch systems.

“In a pandemic, when these Sailors are balancing all the other unique challenges we have all had to juggle over the year, they were ready and willing to go to sea when called,” said Bosse. “They know how to do their jobs — and they did them extremely well. I am incredibly proud of them.”