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Ship named for Bob Hope returns from Kuwait with 3rd ID combat gear

WASHINGTON (USTCNS) --- Despite Georgia's August heat and humidity, the crew of USNS Bob Hope, one of the Navy's newest and largest cargo ships, felt cooler on land than they had in recent weeks. The crew arrived in Savannah, Ga., from the Persian Gulf and was thankful that the temperature was under 120 degrees.

USNS Bob Hope, named for the famous entertainer and ambassador of goodwill to generations of U.S. military troops, was one of 10 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships to face the heat and dust storms while loading the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division combat gear in Kuwait for return to Georgia.

The 3rd ID had been in Iraq fighting in Operation Iraqi freedom since January.

The vast majority of combat equipment and supplies is moved by sea on cargo ships like USNS Bob Hope because it is the only practical way to move the immense amount of combat equipment needed by deployed U.S. war fighters.

All 10 ships, which brought back nearly 892,000 square feet of the 3rd ID's gear, are part of the Navy's Military Sealift Command, the ocean transportation provider for all U.S. military services.

The 3rd ID transit marked the eighth loading operation in support of OIF for USNS Bob Hope. The massive ship has carried more than 38,000 tons and traveled 65,000 miles during the operation.

MSC ships have been the primary movers of U.S. military equipment for OIF. From January to April, the command's ships delivered 21 million square feet of cargo, 261 million gallons of fuel and 95,000 tons of ammunition to the Middle East. Much of this cargo belonged to the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry and 101st Airborne divisions, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps' I and II Marine Expeditionary Forces.

MSC's role in OIF is still not done, though. At the high point of the war in March, MSC operated nearly 170 ships that transported cargo in support of the war in Iraq. Today 55 of the command's ships continue to take combat cargo to the Middle East and are also returning the unneeded or damaged gear back to the United States.

USNS Bob Hope is one of 18 large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ships -- all newly delivered since the Persian Gulf War of the early 1990s -- that can each carry 300,000 square feet of cargo. All of these 950-foot long LMSRs made multiple trips into and out of theater to move millions of square feet of military gear in support of OIF.

While USNS Bob Hope was in the midst of one of these loading operations in Kuwait for the 3rd ID, the late July temperatures reached a sweltering nearly 130 degrees inside the ship's cavernous, seven-deck interior.
To keep everyone hydrated, five tons of bottled water were distributed to the crew and the many civilian and military personnel who assisted in the loading operation.

Small dust storms also plagued the ship while it was being loaded. If the storms became too bad, loading operations had to stop. This happened once to USNS Bob Hope during a previous load in Kuwait, costing the ship some valuable time.

Even with the heat and dust storms, USNS Bob Hope was loaded in four days with 1,400 pieces of cargo, including helicopters, vehicles, equipment containers and trailers from the 3rd ID and airfield units from Fort Stewart and Fort Hunter, Ga. When the loading process was over in Kuwait, the ship sailed for home.

While transiting the Gulf of Oman on July 27, USNS Bob Hope's crew received news that the ship's namesake, comedian Bob Hope, had died. Capt. Dave Henderson, the ship's master, flew a U.S. flag in honor of the beloved entertainer.

"He was such an amazing man, and we are so lucky to work on a ship that carries his name," Henderson said. "We plan to send the flag we flew to his family in California."

USNS Bob Hope's return to Savannah marked the first time the ship has returned to the United States since the legendary entertainer died.

The LMSR was christened in 1997. These ships are typically named after Medal of Honor recipients. Bob Hope is the first entertainer to have a Navy ship named in his honor. The honor is appropriate because of his support of countless U.S. troops over the course of more than five decades.

U.S. Rep. Max Burns from Georgia and executives from the Georgia Port Authority came to welcome the ship back after it arrived in Savannah on August 20.

While in port, the U.S. flag "Old Glory" was flown over the ship in tribute to entertainer Bob Hope's contributions to U.S. troops. Old Glory has been used during various ceremonies and events for the last four years as part of the Old Glory Travels America's Roads tour. The flag has flown in such historic events as the christening of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in Norfolk, Va., Mount Rushmore's 75th anniversary dedication in South Dakota and the 58th anniversary commemorating of the World War II Battle of Midway in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

MSC normally operates more than 120 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships, which increased to more than 210 ships during the height of OIF in mid-March. Additional transport ships were chartered from private industry or activated from reduced operating status to carry the heavy volume of equipment for war fighters supporting OIF.

MSC is the U.S. Transportation Command’s Navy component responsible for providing sealift services to all branches of the military by transporting combat equipment and supplies; providing underway fuel and supply replenishment for the Navy fleets and providing at-sea platforms for undersea surveillance and oceanographic missions. From strategic locations around the globe, MSC also operates prepositioning ships laden with military cargo that can be rapidly deployed during a contingency.
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