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New roll-on/roll-off ship named for Vietnam hero

NEW ORLEANS, La. (USTCNS) --- Hundreds of guests braved the stifling New Orleans summer heat to celebrate a hero July 21.

Balloons filled the air as Hilaria Benavidez, the ship's sponsor, sent a champagne bottle flying to crack against the bow of large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Benavidez officially naming the ship for her late husband, retired Army Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez.

Then-Staff Sgt. Benavidez distinguished himself in a series of courageous actions May 2, 1968, west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam.

Not only was Benavidez a hero on the battlefield, he wanted to do even more for his country and made it his highest goal.

"He worked with young children, pointing the way to their future and success," said Navy Vice Adm. Gordon S. Holder, commander of the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command. "To the kids at Benavidez Elementary School in Houston, Texas, Sgt. Benavidez is a legend they are proud to call 'their hero'."

Benavidez died Nov. 29, 1998, in San Antonio, Texas.

"The ship you see before you will stand for the same ideals held by Roy Benavidez as she joins the MSC surge sealift force, ready to carry Army combat gear and supplies to support America's war fighters," said Holder during the ceremony.

The 950-foot ship is the seventh Bob Hope-class LMSR built for MSC by Northrop Grumman Avondale Industries in New Orleans. She is a non-combatant vessel ideal for transporting U.S. military combat equipment and supplies needed overseas and for re-supplying the armed forces during national crises.

Benavidez will have a cadre crew of 13 people, which will maintain the ship and keep the propulsion system in a high state of readiness. When ordered to activate, the ship can be fully crewed with mariners and ready to sail in four days.

Benavidez's seven decks have a cargo carrying capacity of more than 380,000 square feet-equivalent to eight football fields. She has a slewing stern ramp and a movable ramp that services two side ports to make it easy to drive vehicles on and off the ship, speeding loading and off-loading. The entire on-load and off-load process can be accomplished in 96 hours or less. Two 110-ton single pedestal twin cranes make it possible to load and unload cargo where shoreside infrastructure is limited or nonexistent.

"Our capability to react quickly to any potential trouble is viewed by the rest of the world as a great strength. To many, it is also a great comfort," said Holder. "When the call comes, like her namesake, USNS Benavidez will be ready to answer that call, and she will not be found wanting."

Military Sealift Command is the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense. The command, part of the U.S. Navy, operates more than 110 active ships around the world. Ship missions vary from the transport and afloat prepositioning of defense cargo; to underway replenishment and other direct support to Navy ships at sea; to at-sea data collection for the U.S. military and other U.S. government agencies. (FROM MILITARY SEALIFT COMMAND PUBLIC AFFAIRS).

Office of Public Affairs - transcom-pa@mail.mil
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