One of history’s greatest military strategists, Napoleon Bonaparte, once famously said that an army marches on its stomach, referring to critical role supplies play in determining success on the battlefield. Much has changed since then, but that statement remains as true as ever, as soldiers rely on supply chains to provide critical access to food, boots, equipment, and ammunition. During World War II, for example, the US shipped a total of 132,119,533 tons of cargo to the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.
Since 1950, the role of supplying our troops has been managed by the Maritime Administration, a part of the Department of Transportation. Their Ready Reserve Force (RRF), Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA) and Maritime Security Program (MSP) give the Defense Department reliable access to commercial sealift and other vessels needed to equip US forces in times of war and other emergencies. These three sealift readiness programs guarantee that our military gets the support it needs to meet America's security requirements.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, the US Merchant Marine was called upon once again to transport cargo to support America's military. And commercial carriers and their crews got the job done, transporting more than 31 million tons of cargo to sustain these two operations.
And now, they're bringing it home.
Today, the Ocean Crescent, a lift-on/lift-off heavy vessel operated by Patriot Shipping LLC will return to Beaumont, TX, marking the return of the final Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle from Iraq.
The Ocean Crescent and its crew have provided valuable support to American forces in Iraq. And now that this task is over, this commercial vessel and its crew will return their attention to another important mission: carrying the increasing volume of American goods expected under President Obama's National Export Initiative.
The Maritime Administration is also helping to advance this mission and recently published new guidance to make it easier for shippers to use vessels like the Ocean Crescent.
As our troops return home from their time abroad, it's important that we do everything we can to thank and honor them for their service. But US Mariners and US-flagged vessels have also been there since the beginning, and are at all times, "ready for the next call."
So, to all of those brave mariners, thank you and welcome home.