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Benavidez (T-AKR-306)


Named in honor of Master Sergeant Raul (Roy) Perez Benavidez who was an American combat soldier during the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1981 for his actions near Loc Ninh, South Vietnam on 2 May 1968.

Raul (Roy) Perez Benavidez was born on 5August 1935 in Lindenau, Tx. He enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard in 1952 during the Korean War and in June 1955 transitioned to active duty Army. In 1959 he completed airborne training and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.

On the morning of 2 May 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. The area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire.

While assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam, Benavidez was at a Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when the helicopters of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company returned to off-load wounded crew members and to assess aircraft damage. SSgt. Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft in order to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter and ran approximately 75 meters under heavy small arms fire to the crippled team.

Prior to reaching the team's position he was wounded in his right leg, face and head. Despite his injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke canisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and classified documents on the dead team leader.

When he reached the leader's body, Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to the men. Facing a buildup of enemy opposition with a beleaguered team, Benavidez mustered his strength, began calling in tactical air strikes and directed the fire from supporting gunships to suppress the enemy's fire in order to permit another extraction attempt.

He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. He began to ferry his comrades to the aircraft and on his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he sustained additional wounds to his head and arms before killing the enemy. He then continued under fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the helicopter from an angle that prevented the door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sgt. Benavidez’s actions saved the lives of at least eight men.  

Raul (Roy) Perez Benavidez passed away on 29 November 1998. He is interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Tx.

(T-AKR-306: displacement 62,644; length 950'; beam 106'; draft 35'; speed 24 knots; complement 26 civilian (up to 45) up to 50 active duty; class Bob Hope)

Benavidez (T-AKR-306) was laid down on 15 December 1999 at New Orleans, La., by Avondale Shipyard, Inc.; and launched on 11 August 2001. She entered non-commissioned U.S. Navy service with the Military Sealift Command (MSC) with a primarily civilian crew on 10 September 2003. A non-combatant Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/Roll-off (LMSR) vessel, Benavidez and other ships of her class are used to preposition tanks, trucks, various wheeled vehicles and supplies needed to support an army heavy brigade. She is assigned to the MSC Atlantic surge force and is maintained in Ready Operational Status 4.

During mobilization for the continuing global war on terrorism, the MSC surge fleet of LMSRs and fast sealift ships delivered 10.7 million square feet of cargo. This was approximately forty percent of the total dry cargo carried by all MSC government-owned and chartered ships during fiscal year 2004.

The Surge Project fleet includes 11 LMSRs and eight fast sealift ships that are all maintained in a four-day reduced operating status at various U.S. East and Gulf Coast ports. The LMSRs are especially suited for transporting heavy or bulky unit equipment such as tanks, large wheeled vehicles and helicopters.

Surge Project LMSRs were one of MSCs biggest success stories during the 2004 deployment phase of the Operation Iraqi Freedom troop and equipment rotation. They were activated within three days and maintained an average speed of more than 17 knots throughout the deployment. With a 300,000 square foot capacity per ship, the 11 Surge Project LMSRs delivered more than 7.6 million square feet of cargo in 39 voyages. This averaged 194,540 square feet per ship per voyage. One LMSR effectively replaced six commercial ships chartered during Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91.

Benavidez (T-AKR 306) 040107-N-0780F-018
Benavidez stand out of Souda Bay, Crete, Greece, on 7 January 2004, following a brief port stop in order to deliver more than 230,000 square feet of U.S. Army combat equipment and supplies belonging to the Ft. Hood, Texas-based 1st Cavalry. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley/Released) 040107-N-0780F-018

Detailed history under construction.

Paul J. Marcello

22 December 2015

Published: Tue Mar 01 09:23:26 EST 2016