Email Article

Posted: December 22, 2011

USNS Button completes Maldives mission

The Maritime Prepositioning Force ship USNS SGT William R. Button in December served as a platform for military and cultural forums in the island nation of Maldives, Military Sealift Command reported.

The USNS Button is the flagship of MSC's Diego Garcia-based MPS Squadron Two, which has a current fleet of 12 noncombatant, government-owned and -chartered cargo ships that carry military equipment and supplies for rapid delivery to U.S. forces ashore in the event of a contingency or humanitarian operation.

The USNS Button, which is operated by General Dynamics American Overseas Marine and is manned in all licensed positions by American Maritime Officers, carries in addition to the ship's officers and crew a U.S. Navy active-duty staff of 10 personnel led by a U.S. Navy captain who is responsible for the tactical control of all squadron ships. MPS Squadron Two also has a civil service medical service officer and four contract personnel responsible for maintaining equipment on board.

The USNS Button arrived in Male, Republic of Maldives, on Dec. 11, where U.S. Navy officials conducted bilateral exchanges with senior Maldives National Defense Force officials, as well as cultural exchanges and a community-relations event.

"Building and fostering relations is what this visit was all about," said U.S. Navy Capt. Charles "Gene" Emmert, commander, MPS Squadron Two. "That's been easy because the Maldivians are very friendly and open people."

Emmert and representatives from the Defense Attache office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives met with Col. Mohmed Ziyad, the plans and operations director for the Maldives National Defense Force, at its national headquarters in Male. Emmert also visited with Col. Ismail Sharif, principal director of the Maldivian Coast Guard. The representatives discussed the possibility of increased bilateral cooperation and training operations in the future.

"We wanted to assess the local hospitals' capabilities," said MPS Squadron Two's Medical Service Officer David Larkin, who toured two local hospitals in central Male with Emmert. "We are forward deployed to a remote part of the world, and if we are underway and close to Male with a sick or injured crewmember on board, I would now feel comfortable sending them here for treatment."

During the visit, nine crewmembers from MPS Squadron Two collected litter along a half-mile stretch of beach on Kaffu Villigli, an atoll about a mile from Male. MPS Squadron Two and Maldivian military personnel also shared a meal of local cuisine to further the cultural exchange.