The USMC has a total of 16 maritime prepositioning ships (MPS) which have been built or modified to transport everything from tanks to small weapons in order to accommodate the needs of a troop that has been deployed outside of the United States. The ships are located in the Western Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and assist teams such as the US Marines FAST in mobilizing operations within an 18 hour time frame. The ships also carry necessary food, fuel and even spare parts for the equipment on board.
Each of the three locations is referred to as a squadron. The Mediterranean Sea squadron (which will sometimes extend its location into the Atlantic Ocean) has fiveMPS. They are known as Squadron One. Squadron Two is assigned to the five ships in the Indian Ocean and the five in the Western Pacific Ocean are known as Squadron Three. In all, each squadron will carry enough supplies and equipment to support 16,000 Marine personnel for at least 30 days. The cargo is maintained in temperature controlled areas.
Each MPS ship squadron is commanded by a Navy captain, but the crew is comprised of civilians who are under contract to Military Sealift Command. The five ships in Squadron One are also civilian owned. The owners are comprised of several US financial institutions along with their shareholders. The ships’ crew and operators manage these ships under terms of a 25-year time charter with the Military Sealift Command.
The MPS ships are able to fully unload cargo at port within three days and off shore within five days. In addition to providing immediate access to all the supplies needed in a newly deployed area, these ships also allow the Marines to fully operate in the most remote, underdeveloped areas. No doubt, the USMC Maritime Prepositioning Ships play a vital role in the overall readiness of troops deployed under any circumstance, anywhere in the world.