A $4 million repair job to the towering USNS Amelia Earhart, a supply ship in the Navy's Military Sealift Command, highlighted the importance of a U.S. military ship repair facility on Guam.

Cmdr. Joseph Casale, commanding officer of the Military Sealift Command on Guam, yesterday said the Amelia Earhart will continue to undergo regular structural and interior repairs over the next few weeks before the ship resumes its resupply missions. The ship can carry fuel, food and ammunition among other supplies.

The Amelia Earhart deploys worldwide to replenish warships at sea and was most recently in the Arabian Gulf in late 2014.

U.S. military ships must be repaired in U.S. shipyards, except in case of an emergency, so without the Guam facility, the closest U.S. military ship repair facility in the Western Pacific would be Hawaii, Casale said.

Private contractor

The military ship repair facility is being operated by a private contractor, Cabras Marine Corp., which was awarded the military's ship repair contract on Guam in late 2013.

The contract lasts five years and is renewable each year.

Cabras Marine has 232 workers. It recently trained and added 70 apprentices, many of whom were working at the Amelia Earhart yesterday. The apprentices include high school graduates and Guam National Guard members who returned from Afghanistan and other overseas deployments.

Guam Guard members have good work ethic and bring skill sets that are needed at the ship repair facility, Casale said.

With more ship repair projects lined up for this year, Cabras Marine could see its workforce grow to as many as 400, Casale said.

Cabras Marine operates the only U.S. integrated maintenance ship repair facility in the Western Pacific, according to the Navy. "This reinforces the strategic importance of Guam during the Department of Defense's rebalance to the Pacific," the Navy stated.

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