The expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Puerto Rico (T-EPF 11) is supporting the U.S. Marine Corps during Resolute Dragon 21 in Japan, Dec. 4 - 16.
“The crew of USNS Puerto Rico is proud to work with the Marines of III Marine Expeditionary Force on our maiden deployment and our first port calls to Japan,” said Capt. Curtis Shelton, master of USNS Puerto Rico.
“Resolute Dragon 2021 has afforded our crew ample hands-on experience working with 3rd Combat Logistics Regiment Marines in loading and securing cargo. Through this experience, communications improve, expectations are adjusted and lessons are learned.”
Resolute Dragon, which takes place at multiple training sites in Japan, includes U.S. Marines, Army and Navy units working with members of the Japan Self-Defense Force. The exercise helps strengthen the defensive capabilities of the U.S.-Japan Alliance by refining procedures for bilateral command, control and coordination in a geographically distributed environment.
“Exercises like Resolute Dragon prove the viability of the core expeditionary fast transport mission,” Shelton said. “EPF vessels serving, as high-speed, intra-theater transport, give USMC mission planners added capability to rapidly deploy forces throughout the Indo-Pacific Theater.
“In the face of near-peer threats, these exercises prepare both [Military Sealift Command civil service marines] and U.S. Marine warfighters to work together to rapidly distribute forces throughout the operational area.”
EPFs, like Puerto Rico, are high-speed, shallow-draft ships that enable the rapid transit and deployment of U.S. Armed Forces – including Marines -- their equipment and supplies. Expeditionary fast transport platforms can operate in small, austere ports and sustain forces working in a variety of environments. Fast, agile and flexible, Puerto Rico can support a wide range of missions, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, theater security cooperation, maritime domain awareness and noncombatant evacuations.
“Worldwide, EPFs are tasked with various mission sets. For some members of our crew, this was their first opportunity to work with Marines. Likewise, for many Marines, this is their first interaction with an EPF. For some, it's their first time working with any ship. For these reasons, any interaction between MSC and USMC serves to build bridges and set future expectations about capabilities and limitations,” Shelton explained.
During the exercise, USNS Puerto Rico is transporting personnel, heavy equipment and vehicles taking part in Resolute Dragon from one port to another. The loading and unloading of people and materiel is a complex one that requires detailed planning.
“Collaborative planning is critical in order to understand goals and prioritize aspects of the mission. Setting realistic expectations and being flexible enough to overcome setbacks prevents disappointment and allows us to continue in the face of adversity.
“Everything comes back to having good communications and being available to answer questions in a timely manner, in the appropriate forum and ensure that all the stakeholders are on board with important decisions,” Shelton said.
He believes through bilateral exercises like Resolute Dragon, lines of communication are opened, command relationships are understood and a common picture of requirements and capabilities are developed.
“Without good communications and teamwork, no mission of this scale could be accomplished. The midst of a crisis is not the time to begin laying the groundwork for a successful partnership. We need to know how to effectively communicate and we much understand our individual roles to come together and solve complex problems.”