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Logistics teams prepare the ground

Working in Navy’s logistics trades can mean deploying overseas to ports to smooth the way before your ship arrives.

01 August, 2023

When a Navy ship travels to other ports, it’s the job of the ‘pusser’, the Maritime Logistics Officer (MLO) on board, and the ship’s Logistics Supply Specialists (LSS), to ensure the ship has what it needs to sustain and carry out its deployment.

But it is also useful to send a logistics team to a country in anticipation of a ship’s arrival, to smooth the way with administration, supplies and advice. It’s a useful overseas opportunity for MLOs and other support branch personnel, keeping them up to date and involved in current operations while providing hands-on, practical on-the-job training at home and aboard.

It was a skillset that fell to one side during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now on the rise again, both domestically and internationally.

A recent example was a six-person Logistics Detachment sent to Samoa, ahead of the arrival of HMNZS Taupo. The team included a Navy chaplain.

Our personnel maintain and clean the graves of New Zealand service people buried in Samoa. Chaplain Lloyd Salmon smiles as they wear dress whites, standing in front of a white cross. Two sailors in RNZ Navy uniform and baseball caps meet two puppies at the Animal Shelter in Apia.

Logistic teams clean graves and visit the animal shelter among other tasks as requested by the High Commission and local RSA.

Lieutenant Sam Wilson, Officer in Charge, said that unlike larger Navy ships, Inshore Patrol Vessels carry a Logistics Supply Specialist but not a Maritime Logistics Officer. Often the Executive Officer takes on the MLO role.

“A trip like this carries a far greater logistics burden compared to Taupo’s usual routine,” he says. “There was extensive personnel movement ashore, along with functions and local engagements.”

The different skillsets among the team lent themselves to Taupo’s deployment. “Taupo has a junior crew. Our Petty Officer Medic can provide support and advice to the Able Medic on board. So can our Warrant Officer Marine Technician, or our MLOs or Logistics Supply Specialist to Taupo’s LSS.

“The padre was awesome. He added so much more value into the community engagement piece we were doing.”

While in-country, six members of Taupo’s ship’s company joined the team, making room for Samoa Police and government agencies to sail with the ship on fisheries patrols.

“It allowed us to do some ‘hearts and minds’ stuff, something the ship’s company would normally do."

"The High Commission and the local RSA gave us some tasks. We conducted a range of activities in the community, including a sporties day with the Samoan Police Force, cleaning graves of NZDF personnel who passed away in WW1 and WW2 while stationed in Samoa, a visit to the Deputy Director General of Health and some volunteer work at the Animal Protection Society.”

Navy personnel compete in a friendly game of rugby with the Samoan Police Force in front of palm trees. Team Navy are wearing PT uniform and some are playing barefoot.

Sporties play a friendly game of rugby with the Samoan Police.

He says when the trade’s names changed from ‘Supply Officer’ (November 2021) and ‘Stores Accountant’ (July 2018), the new names came with roles and expectations beyond simply being a ship’s ‘pusser’.

“We want to grow this skill set within our trade, so we can help ships deploy and support them in another country. Traditionally some of this is contracted out to a providore contractor, but when we do it, it makes us better pussers and shows that there is more to the trade than just being at sea. In the Maritime Logistics world, there are plenty of opportunities to get out there.”