March 2nd 2021

MM&P members aboard USNS TIPPECANOE were on their usual tight schedule when they were interviewed recently for an article in “MSC Sealift” about the vessel’s role in an international combat readiness exercise.

The Henry J. Kaiser-class ship had been deployed in support of Operation Keen Sword to carry out underway replenishments for US and allied vessels

“TIPPECANOE maintains a heavy workload ensuring readiness, earning her nickname ‘The Beast of the East’,” said Captain Kylie Howard, TIPPECANOE’s master.

“USNS TIPPECANOE’s Civil Service mariners have shown fortitude, skill and dedication while providing much needed food, fuel, supplies and cargo to US Navy, coalition and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships operating in the 7th Fleet.”

In the 72 hours before the beginning of operation Keen Sword, the crew of TIPPECANOE replenished fuel and supplies for: three US Navy ships; a Canadian Halifax-class frigate; and four Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force ships—three destroyers and Japan’s lead

replenishment ship.

“Our schedule stays pretty full,” says Operations Officer Christopher Bosch.

“It’s all part of our commitment to deliver on-station logistical support so partner and ally countries’ ships conducting maritime security operations can stay on task, without worrying about when and where they will receive critical supplies.”

The Navy says exercises like Keen Sword provide the US and Japan with opportunities to train together across a variety of mission areas, enhancing readiness and interoperability, while “building credible deterrence.”

“Including Canada in this bilateral exercise helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans,” according to the Sealift article.

“The logistical support we provide to US Navy and other ships from around the world demonstrates our longstanding commitment to security and stability in the region,” said Emmett Meyer, watch officer aboard TIPPECANOE.

Each replenishment-at-sea can take up to several hours to complete: the two ships steam alongside each other while TIPPECANOE transfers fuel via connected fuel lines.

The underway evolution requires the ships to cruise alongside one another only yards apart while maintaining the same speed and course.

“Each time we conduct a replenishment-at-sea, we have to be on our A-game, with absolutely no errors,” said Chief Mate Arne Plathan.

“Our crew is top-notch, maintaining professionalism and adhering to strict protocols.”

“This is a very risky business. If one ship changes course or speed, it could result in someone getting hurt, a collision at sea or a fuel line breaking away.”

That’s why Plathan and the crew take extra precautions and strictly follow all safety guidelines and requirements.

“They have created a culture of safety and professionalism that is second to none, working tirelessly to ensure that the needs of our customers are met anytime and anywhere,” says TIPPECANOE Master Kylie Howard.

The licensed deck officers aboard USNS TIPPECANOE are represented by the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group.