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Rainier III (AOE-7) 1995-


A mountain in the Cascade Range in the state of Washington. British Capt. George Vancouver, RN, named the mountain for Rear Adm. Peter Rainier Jr., RN, in 1792.

The third U.S. Navy ship named Rainier. The first Rainier, a schooner, served from 1917-1919. The second Rainier (AE-5), an ammunition ship, served from 1941-1970.


(AOE-7: displacement 50,736; length 754'; beam 107'; draft 40'; speed 30 knots; complement 708; armament one NATO Sea Sparrow Missile (NSSM) system, two Phalanx Block 1 Close-in Weapons System (CIWS) mounts, two Mk 38 25 millimeter chain guns, four .50 caliber machine guns; aircraft two Boeing Vertol UH-46E Sea Knights; class Supply)

The third Rainier (AOE-7) was laid down on 31 May 1990 at San Diego, Calif., by National Steel and Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 28 September 1991, sponsored by Mrs. Suzanne P. Dicks, wife of Representative Norman D. Dicks of Wash.; and commissioned on 21 January 1995, Capt. Thomas P. Danaher in command.

Rainier (AOE-7) III 1995-2015-MSC
Rainier glides through a tranquil sea. (Undated or attributed U.S. Navy photograph, Military Sealift Command)

Rainier was decommissioned on 29 August 2003, and transferred to the Military Sealift Command (MSC), that operated the fast combat support ship as Rainier (T-AOE-7).

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggering a tsunami across the Indian Ocean littoral, on 26 December 2004. The waves reached heights of 30 feet in shallow waters and a width sometimes extending to six-miles, and the disaster killed more than 230,000 people. Combined Support Force 536 coordinated Operation Unified Assistance : multinational relief efforts. United States naval forces often reached disaster zones before international aid agencies, and aircraft delivered supplies and emergency responders to otherwise inaccessible inland areas.

Rainier supported some of the United States ships that rendered assistance during the first days of the tragedy including aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), guided missile cruiser Shiloh (CG-67), and guided missile destroyers Benfold (DDG-65) and Shoup (DDG-86). Four Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawks of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (Light) (HSL) 47 and some SH-60Fs and HH-60Hs of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 2, embarked on board Abraham Lincoln, began to ferry supplies from collection points in Sumatra to victims during the early morning hours of 1 January 2005. The helicopter-intensive nature of the support missions required the Seahawks to log over 1,000 hours, more than three times the expected wear-and-tear on the helos during their standard deployments.

Rainier repeatedly replenished ships during the grueling operations. “It’s a multiple mission,” Capt. William Baldwin, the ship’s master, summarized laconically. “There has been no lack of business for us.” The pace increased the maintenance problems with the ship’s embarked MH-60S Knighthawks from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 11 Detachment 2. “The only way to deliver the desperately needed food and water is by helicopter,” Lt. Cmdr. Chris Hayes of the detachment assessed the situation grimly.

Rainier (AOE-7) III 1995-2015-050114-N-1229B-025
A Knighthawk from HC-11 Detachment 2 carries cargo from Rainier to Abraham Lincoln while assisting the victims of the tsunami, 14 January 2005. (Photographer’s Mate Airman Patrick M. Bonafede, U.S. Navy Photograph 050114-N-1229B-025, Navy NewsStand)
Rainier (AOE-7) III 1995-2015-050114-N-1229B-018
An HC-11 Detachment 2 Knighthawk lowers its cargo onto the flight deck of fast combat store ship San Jose (T-AFS-7), 14 January 2005. Rainier steams in the background. (Photographer’s Mate Airman Patrick M. Bonafede, U.S. Navy Photograph 050114-N-1229B-018, Navy NewsStand)

Vessels that supported these operations included amphibious assault ships Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and Essex (LHD-2),  that relieved Bonhomme Richard on 18 January 2005, dock landing ships Fort McHenry (LSD-43) and Rushmore (LSD-47), amphibious transport dock Duluth (LPD-6), guided missile cruiser Bunker Hill (CG-52), guided missile destroyer Milius (DDG-69), guided missile frigate Thach (FFG-43) and Coast Guard high endurance cutter Munro (WHEC-724). Additional vessels of the Military Sealift Command that supported Unified Assistance including, at times, the hospital ship Mercy (T-AH-19), combat store ships Niagara Falls (T-AFS 3) and San Jose (T-AFS-7), and fleet replenishment oilers John Ericsson (T-AO-194), Tippecanoe (T-AO-199) and Yukon (T-AO-202). Maritime prepositioning ships of the command that took part in these humanitarian relief operations comprised container and roll-on/roll-off ships PFC James Anderson Jr. (T-AK-3002), Cpl Louis J. Hauge Jr. (T-AK-3000), 1st Lt Alex Bonnyman (T-AK-3002), 1st Lt Harry L. Martin (T-AK-3015), 1st Lt Jack Lummus (T-AK-3011), and Maj Stephen W. Pless (T-AK-3007). Oceanographic survey ships John McDonnell (T-AGS-51) and Mary Sears (T-AGS-65) conducted surveys of the ocean bottom off the Indonesian coast, near the epicenter of the earthquake, to collect data to assist in predicting natural disasters.

Abraham Lincoln came about from Indonesian waters on 3 February 2005, and 11 days later Combined Support Force 536 ceased relief operations. President George W. Bush and former President William J. Clinton visited Fort McHenry to thank servicemembers for their participation in Unified Assistance on 20 February. Despite earthquake aftershocks and logistic problems, U.S. aircraft flew 1,747 missions and transported 3,043 passengers during these operations. Sailors and marines in these aircraft and on board the ships delivered 5.92 million pounds of supplies to people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Rainier was taken out of service on 30 September 2016 at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Bremerton, Wash. 

Detailed history pending. 

Mark L. Evans 

3 October 2016

Published: Mon Oct 03 07:28:03 EDT 2016