With the Military Sealift Command playing an increasingly important part in naval operations, is it right to ignore the potential for friction between MSC Mariners and Navy commanders? Is the state of MSC/Navy relations a “non-issue?” Before deciding, read this fascinating excerpt from Baltimore Sun reporter Robert Little’s October 28, 2007 story on the USNS Comfort in South America:
“When you see this great big white ship with a red cross sitting off your coast, it is a symbol. It sends a signal to these countries about what the United States is trying to do for them,” said Navy Capt. Robert Kapcio, who served as the Comfort’s mission commander and the top military officer on the ship. “They have to know this huge white ship was not cheap to send down there.”
…According to Nanartowich, publicity was so important to the mission’s success that in the Colombian port of Bahia Maliga, Kapcio, the Navy commander, ordered the ship to anchor a mile off the coast, largely to meet the expectations of the media waiting on shore. [Capt. Ed] Nanartowich [the ship’s master] refused, citing the port’s narrow channel and dangerous cross-current, and Kapcio backed down, but not before taking the disagreement up with Navy officials in the United States.
“The political pressure has been just incredible,” Nanartowich said. “They don’t want to disappoint the television cameras.”
There’s a lot of under-charted “grey areas” in the MSC/Navy relationship that deserve greater scrutiny. In the press of a conflict or incident, there won’t be time to call Big Navy for guidance.
So…Are my concerns overblown? If not, then what would make the MSC/Navy partnership better?