The U.S. Navy will officially name its newest prepositioning ship USNS Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003, during a 10:30 a.m. EDT ceremony at Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Fla.
Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Atlantic, Lt. Gen. Martin R. Berndt, is the ceremony’s principal speaker. Margaret Taylor, wife of Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, will serve as ship’s sponsor and break a bottle of champagne across the bow to officially name the ship.
The ship is named in honor of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat (1947-1967), a native of Moselle, Miss. On Aug. 11, 1967, Wheat heroically sacrificed his life to save the lives of two other Marines. After warning his fellow Marines when he unintentionally triggered a concealed anti-personnel mine, Wheat valiantly hurled himself upon the mine, absorbing the impact of the explosion with his own body.
Corporal Wheat’s unselfish action saved his comrades from certain injury and possible death. Wheat’s other awards include: the Navy Commendation Medal, Purple Heart with one Gold Star, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, Vietnam Military Merit Medal, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
A non-combatant vessel, the Wheat will be operated by a private company under contract to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, with a crew of 31 commercial mariners as a part of the Maritime Prepostioning Force (MPF) program.
The Wheat is capable of carrying about 200,000 square feet of roll-on/roll-off and container cargo. The ship will be prepositioned to augment the existing MPF assets and will carry additional capabilities such as an expeditionary airfield, a naval construction battalion, and a fleet hospital. The ship is 864 feet in length, has a beam of 98 feet, a draft of 35 feet, displaces 50,059 long tons fully loaded, and can sustain speeds of more than 20 knots.