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Pecos III (T-AO-197)


The third U.S. Navy ship named for the river in New Mexico and Texas.


(T-AO-197: displacement 9,500; length 677'; beam 97'; draft 35'; speed 20 knots; complement 103; armament 1 .50-caliber machine gun, 2 20 millimeter Phalanx close in weapon system (CIWS); class Henry J. Kaiser)

The third Pecos (T-AO-197) was laid down on 17 February 1988 at New Orleans, La, by Avondale Shipyard, Inc.; launched on 23 September 1989; and sponsored by Mrs. Phyllis C. Butcher, wife of Vice Adm. Paul D. Butcher, former Commander Military Sealift Command. She was delivered to the Navy and placed in non-commissioned service with a primarily civilian crew under the control of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) in the United States Pacific Fleet on 6 July 1990.

During a training evolution on 9 December 1999, a Boeing-Vertol CH-46D Sea Knight (BuNo 154790) (Capt. James I. Lukehart Jr., USMC, pilot), assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (HMM-166) became entangled in the netting of Pecos’ landing pad and plunged, upside-down, into the ocean. The mishap, occurring during the “15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s pre-deployment workup cycle,” claimed the lives of seven marines (of the 18 souls on board) from the 5th Platoon, 1st reconnaissance Company, USMC. As routine procedure following an accident, members of the crew were subjected to drug testing. Capt. Mark LaRachelle, the ship’s master, failed the initial and secondary drug tests and was relieved of command and fired from MSC. Following his dismissal, his U.S. Coast Guard license was revoked as well.

During Operation Tomodachi (‎12 March 2011 – 4 May 2011), Pecos rendezvoused with U.S. Seventh Fleet flagship Blue Ridge (LCC-19) near Kyushu, Japan. Blue Ridge transferred 96 pallets of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief stores to Pecos for delivery to the Essex (LHD-2) Amphibious Group and the Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) Carrier Strike Group. Pallets, some weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, contained items such as water containers and water purification tablets, first-aid products, tarps, blankets and other supplies. The ship arrived off Sendai on 25 March for more underway replenishment (UNREP) operations. During its support effort to Operation Tomodachi, Pecos completed nine UNREPs and delivered more than 2.3 million gallons of fuel to other supporting ships.

Detailed history under construction.

Paul J. Marcello

30 November 2015

Published: Wed Dec 02 10:55:39 EST 2015