Williamsburg December 8, 2014 - The Military Sealift Command (MSC) joint high-speed vessel USNS Choctaw County (JHSV 2) moored for the first time at Naval Weapons Station Cheatham Annex Dec. 1 for a weeklong proof of concept trial.
The trial is a collaborative effort between Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG), Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 1 (NCHB 1) and Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Group (NEMSCOM) in setting up an expeditionary medical unit (EMU) on board.
The reconfigurable 20,000-square-foot mission bay area can be quickly adapted to support a number of different missions. Anything from transporting portable hospitals to support humanitarian assistance-disaster relief (HADR) to transporting tanks and troops.
"When the COCOM [combatant commander] requires a hospital, we can employ the JHSV to quickly move an EMU from point A to point B," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Weikel, NEMSCOM design director.
Weikel went on to explain that an advantage the JHSV brings over the current hospital ships in the Navy is the mission bay's area of adaptability to almost any type of use along with its reduced on-station response time.
"For the scope of this exercise, we are looking for a vessel of opportunity," said Weikel. "We want to see how this [EMU] can fit on the JHSV in its current configuration."
The EMU proof of concept is in the early stages of development and experimentation, and is not solely reliant on the JHSV platform to succeed. Weikel explained the JHSV is an appropriate platform for this type of experiment. As long as sea state can support movement of the vessel, the JHSV could be quickly loaded to transport an EMU and be met on station by NEMSCOM and fleet hospital personnel to unpack and set up the EMU.
"Comfort and Mercy are full up round hospitals, but slow in transit," said Weikel.
Although not ready to conduct such tasks as operations that are conducted on hospital ships, the JHSV with an EMU setup could potentially serve as rapid medical response.
Choctaw County's crew of 22 civil service mariners works for MSC, which operates, navigates and maintains the ship. JHSVs are capable of transporting approximately 600 tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots, and are designed to operate in shallow ports and waterways, providing added flexibility to U.S. warfighters worldwide.
NAVELSG and NEMSCOM are homeported in Williamsburg, at Cheatham Annex. NAVELSG provides Sailors with the knowledge and skills needed to support the fleet's surface and air-handling mission. More than 100 Sailors and civilians work hand-in-hand with the fleet and are dedicated to ensuring training is current and well executed on behalf of 3,500 active duty and Reserve Sailors in the administration, logistics and training of their active and reserve components.