Photo by Sgt. Alize Sotelo
8 Sep 2022 | Marine Corps Forces Central Command
In the small port city of Yanbu on the Red Sea coast of western Saudi Arabia, more than 600 vehicles and pieces of equipment were offloaded via a Maritime Prepositioning Force offload operation during exercise Native Fury 22.
But how was Combat Logistics Regiment 1, the exercise's lead unit, able to acquire hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment in order to meet mission requirements? The answer: the Blount Island Command employed a technical assistance advisory team lead by the TAAT officer in charge, Maj. Jason Paredes.
Paredes, the Blount Island Command Supply Branch Head and a native of Miami, FL, has worked in the hub of the Marine Corps' prepositioning programs in Jacksonville, Florida, for just over two years helping support the command's mission of supporting Fleet Marine Forces.
"As a supply officer for the program, I am responsible for all of the equipment accountability on the 12 MPF vessels," said Paredes. "I am also responsible for our general count and all of the repair parts and secondary repairables for maintenance and sustainment of the program."
Traditionally, ground supply officers lead and train Marines in coordinating the equipment and material for mission requirements as well as the supervision of purchasing and contracting supplies for their assigned unit.
"This is a very unique billet for a supply officer, where as a battalion or a regiment, you are focused on generally one unit's supply count or a specific element of the MAGTF," said Paredes. "At Blount Island Command, there's a mixture of equipment from all elements on the vessel and you are also managing 12 separate ships that are constantly deployed worldwide."
“The best part of working within the MPF program is that should this nation ever face a contingency, we know we are providing all of the equipment so that Marines can be the first to fight.” Maj. Jason Paredes, the TAAT officer in charge
According to Paredes, Blount Island Command only has about 90 Marines, around 100 civilians and a civilian contracted workforce of roughly 800 that maintain the equipment.
This year, the technical assistance advisory team for Native Fury 22 was composed of 15 Marines and Sailors and approximately 25 contractors.
"We have about a 40 man team supporting the exercise," said Paredes. "We essentially have two Marines and a contractor for each commodity. We bring subject matter experts for each commodity and they facilitate the joint limited technical inspections of the equipment and the custody and turn-over to the Marine Expeditionary Force. We also deploy with a few communication SMEs for the high-prime nodes to set up our communications and a few embark specialists to assist with offloading the ship."
In its eighth iteration, Native Fury 22 focused on the demonstration of the rapid offload and integration of a Maritime Pre-Positioned Force in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of regional security, crisis response, and contingency operations.
"Native Fury 22 was a very smooth exercise," said Paredes. "The Marines and Sailors offloaded over 600 pieces of equipment and there were only maintenance issues with just a hand full of them."
The USNS Seay, the prepositioned ship assigned to Native Fury 22, contained a variety of equipment that was a true representation of all of the elements of the MAGTF.
"You have engineering equipment, AC units, radios, generators, 7-tons, Humvees, and primary heavy ordinance assets such as amphibious assault vehicles, artillery, and a mix of equipment and supplies," said Paredes. "The ships also hold pre-staged meals, ready to eat, ammunition as well as repair parts."
According to Paredes, the TAAT was able to conduct arrival and assembly operations within 72 hours and issue all that equipment to the MAGTF for their long-range convoy.
The essential purpose of an MPF operation is to establish a MAGTF that is fully prepared to execute an employment mission. MPF-offload operations such as Native Fury 22 highlight the United States' capabilities to effectively deliver mission essential gear, regardless of location; beach, port or open water.
"I feel that the Marines don't realize that we don't load the ships for an exercise," said Bobby Carter, the assistant TAAT OIC. "We load the ships for the Marines who might very well fall on it during a contingency. However, we do find windows of opportunity where we can use them for exercises like Native Fury."
According to Carter, while the ships are in an afloat phase, which is typically 30-36 months, there are constantly people working around the clock to ensure the gear is always ready.
"While it floats out there, someone is making sure that batteries are charged," said Carter. "Someone is making sure that equipment is getting fired up at least every 30 days. We have a team of folks doing that who are Marine Corps Maintenance Contactors."
The MCMC employees each have specific military occupational specialties, said Carter.
"Every single day that you are at home, they are on that ship. Someone is maintaining that equipment" said Carter. "For the day that Marines get the call to go to the armory, get to the flight line and go fall in on some gear; that, my friend, is how the gear gets to them. Marines only see the ramp drop and stuff come off, but have no clue how it got to them. Its like the grocery store concept. You go to the store and grab an apple and you're happy. How did the apple get there? That's what we do. We're the farmers."
According to Paredes, the importance of MPF is having a float of prepositioned equipment that can rapidly respond anywhere in the world within 15-20 days. That allows the MEFs to travel via strategic airlift, without having to bring their equipment from their home base.
"The best part of working within the MPF program is that should this nation ever face a contingency, we know we are providing all of the equipment so that Marines can be the first to fight," said Paredes.