Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Transportation Command began a five-day "turbo activation" of its Ready Reserve Force to test its ability to quickly deploy cargo ships required for a massive troop movement.
The exercise involves 28 fully-crewed ships in the no-notice exercise, an unprecedented number which is expected to provide a better assessment of sealift readiness, USTRANSCOM officials said Tuesday.
The ships left from undisclosed ports on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as on the Gulf Coast, with at least 1,000 merchant marine personnel involved.
Typically, only a few ships are involved in such exercises, but the deployment started Tuesday is the largest since 2003 and the fourth turbo activation this year. It involves ships of the Military Sealift Command and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration, monitored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and USTRANSCOM.
The exercise demonstrates the readiness of the ships and tests their ability to meet activation time standards and Department of Defense mission requirements.
The activated ships are directed to transition from a reduced operating status with a skeleton crew to a fully-crewed status, with quarters made habitable and cargo gear ready, within five days. Activations are generally immediately followed by a sea trial, USTRANSCOM said.
The Military Sealift Command's "surge fleet," which includes 15 roll-on/roll-off, or ro-ro, cargo ships, is involved, as are ships of the Maritime Administration, which includes 35 ro-ro ships and 11 "special mission ships."
The Maritime Administration's vessels have capabilities including heavy lift cranes and aviation maintenance shops. One of the special mission ships, the M/V Cape Ray, carried elaborate equipment to support the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons in 2014.