Kuroda sets sail
The vessel, named for a nisei hero, was damaged by Katrina
The Pacific Army Reserve's only vessel named after a nisei World War II hero is finally plying Hawaii waters after surviving a catastrophic hurricane.
The 314-foot logistical support vessel christened four years ago and named after Army Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda was officially placed into service last month hauling troop supplies to the Big Island.
Logistical Support Vessel Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda
Builder: VT Halter Marine
Location: Gulfport, Miss.
Commissioned: August 2006
Displacement: 6,000 tons
Length: 314 feet
Payload: 10,500 square feet
Speed: 12 knots
Range: 6,325 miles
Source: U.S. Army
The $22 million vessel arrived in the islands last August, but didn't get clearance to begin hauling military cargo until July 23, according to its skipper Chief Warrant Officer Robert Blomerth. It completed its first mission this week hauling cargo to the Big Island.
The ship's namesake, Staff Sgt. Kuroda, was a Medal of Honor recipient and a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who was killed in France by a sniper on Oct. 20, 1944, at age 21. Kuroda was gunned down while trying to take out a German machine-gun nest near Bruyeres, France, during the rescue of Texas' "Lost Battalion."
The logistical support vessel Kuroda was almost crippled in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, while the ship was under construction in Gulfport, Miss. The hurricane's winds blew the ship into some trees. Halter Marine, which built the Kuroda, had to dig a 1,000-footlong channel, 60 feet wide and 10 feet deep, to get it back to the shipyard, said Halter Chief Executive Officer Boyd King.
Now that it is safely underway in Hawaii, the next biggest challenge will be in the spring when it undertakes a 29-day voyage to American Samoa, said Chief Warrant Officer John Owens, who commands the 548th Transportation Detachment that operates the vessel.
He said that unlike other reserve and National Guard units whose required active duty training usually lasts only two weeks, the 35 soldiers assigned to the Kuroda will have to leave their civilian jobs for more than three weeks. He said that besides being soldiers, unit members also have to maintain nautical skills.
GREG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Former state lawmaker Joe "Jumbo" Kuroda, left, who served in the military for 33 years, swapped stories with Brig. Gen. Alex Kozlov, commander of the Army Reserve's 9th Regional Readiness Command, in front of a display of the Medal of Honor awarded to Staff Sgt. Robert Kuroda, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Nine members of Kuroda's family visited the ship named after him. CLICK FOR LARGE
The extended absence means "we have to keep good relationships with our soldiers' employers," he said. On Friday, nine employers were among the 70 people, including members of Kuroda's family, who had breakfast onboard and then sailed for nearly three hours off Waikiki.
Among those who took part in the so-called "boss lift" were U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo and Honolulu Fire Chief Ken Silva. Kubo said he had one member of his staff who was returning from active duty and Silva noted that 80 of the 1,200 employees in the fire department are members of the reserves or National Guard.
But the sail on Friday really belonged to the nine members of the Kuroda family.
Of nine brothers, only former state lawmaker Joe "Jumbo" Kuroda, 80, could make trip. Four served in World War II -- Ronald, Wallace, Robert and Joe. Brother Ronald Kuroda, 89, was one of the original members of the 100th Battalion and earned the Distinguished Service Cross -- the nation's second-highest medal for valor.
Eleanor Kuroda Paek said her father, Mineso Kuroda, had wanted to be on the pier when the vessel arrived at its homeport at Hickam Air Force Base last August.
"He was in a Pearl City nursing home and died two days before the ship docked," she said. "He was waiting so long for it to happen."
GREG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Command Sgt. Maj. Joven Miranda and Staff Sgt. Leah Mariano admire the view of Diamond Head from the deck of the Army's logistical vessel Kuroda on Friday. CLICK FOR LARGE
Paek and Joe Kuroda credited Brig. Gen. John Ma, former commander of the Army Reserves 9th Regional Readiness Command, and retired Lt. Col. Howard Sugai for leading the effort to name the vessel after Sgt. Kuroda.
Joe Kuroda said initially the Army wanted the cargo ship to be named after a general who had served in the transportation corps.
"But Gen. Ma and Howard Sugai thought it should be named after a Medal of Honor soldier who lived close to where the ship would be docked," Joe Kuroda said. His family is from Aiea.
"This indeed is an honor," Paek added. "It is a honor with mixed feelings. I am so happy it has finally happened, but I know there are so many other deserving people whom the ship could have been named after."
The Kuroda is the 9th Regional Readiness Command's first ship and joins two active-duty Army support vessels, Clinger and Gross, at the piers and facilities belonging to Army Reserve's 548th Transportation Detachment.
The Kuroda is designed to carry 6,000 tons of cargo and can sail more than 6,325 miles without refueling. It is 60 feet wide and can haul 30 tanks or 24 Stryker combat vehicles. The roll-on-off cargo ship is the largest in the new generation of Army logistical support vessels.