USNS VADM K.R. Wheeler participates in offshore petroleum discharge system exercise with Korean partners

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The following article by Lt. Saeah Wood, U.S. Naval Forces Korea and Military Sealift Command Office Korea Public Affairs, was released September 24. The USNS VADM K.R. Wheeler is operated by TOTE Services, Inc. and is manned in all licensed positions by American Maritime Officers. AMO members onboard were Captain John Mansfield, Captain Glenn Macario, Chief Mate Mark Kerr, Second Mate Alfredo Noriega, Second Mate Eric Clark, Third Mate Helen Freeman, Third Mate Martin Conroy, Third Mate Teddy Dodson, Chief Engineer Patrick Yarbrough, First Assistant Engineer Frank Celino, Second A.E. Lynn Bell, Third A.E. Matt Farmer, Third A.E. Roy Coleman, Third A.E. Jason Peters and Third A.E. Scott Magin.

BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) - Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessels USNS Wheeler (T-AG 5001) and USNS Fast Tempo participated in an Offshore Petroleum Discharge System (OPDS) exercise off of Dogu Beach, Pohang, Republic of Korea (ROK) from Sept. 12-22.

The OPDS exercise is a MSC sponsored, semi-annual event that allows crewmembers to exercise the full capabilities of the OPDS system in a real-world environment. USNS Wheeler is a government-owned, contractor-operated vessel. Approximately 20 civilian mariners operate and navigate the ship, along with eight crew members who operate and deploy the OPDS.

"The OPDS system is designed to be fully operational in less than 48 hours from arrival; therefore, it is important for crew members to remain sharp on OPDS operations in the event of a contingency," said John Mansfield, captain of USNS Wheeler. "The exercise also exposes military personnel in all branches of both U.S. and ROK forces to the unique capabilities of these vessels and the importance they play in defense and logistical support."

Wheeler's OPDS is a completely self-contained terminal capable of providing up to 1.7 million gallons of fuel in a 20-hour day, or about 1,400 gallons per minute, from a distance of up to eight miles offshore.

"The OPDS is a vital capability for MSC, allowing fuel to be pumped to shore during contingency operations where port facilities may be damaged, destroyed, or non-existent," said Capt. Robert Rochford, commodore of Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron 3. "It also allows us to support areas that have been affected by natural disaster or other underdeveloped coastal areas for humanitarian assistance."

During the OPDS exercise, Wheeler was positioned approximately 9,000 feet from Dogu Beach using her sophisticated Dynamic Positioning System (DPS), which allows the ship to automatically approach and maintain positioning from a designated fixed point without anchoring. The OPDS flexible piping was then connected to the Beach Termination Unit (BTU), and 65,000 gallons of potable water were pumped through all eight miles of flexible pipe that was laid out on the ocean bottom.

"The first 1,000 feet of pipe is outfitted with stainless steel armor to protect it from sharp obstacles that may be encountered in the surf zone while beaching the pipe," said Mansfield. "It is important to coordinate a site survey of a potential OPDS location to understand factors such as water depths, bottom conditions, and tides to determine the impacts to the OPDS flexible piping."

Full mission operating capability was exercised by the Wheeler crew resulting in a valuable training opportunity for crew members and positive lessons learned for MSC. The OPDS Exercise was made successful through coordination with ROK Marine Corps 1st Division, ROK Navy Pohang Port Defense Battalion, Pohang Maritime and Port Administration, ROK Pohang Coast Guard, and Pohang Fishery Radio Control Tower.

"The OPDS Exercise could not have been completed without support from our local Korean counterparts," said Cmdr. Eric St. Peter, commander of Military Sealift Command Office, Korea. "We do our best to provide them with an understanding of MSC capabilities including the OPDS."

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