The Navy Office of Purveyor of Supplies, forerunner of today’s Navy Supply Corps, was not in existence for very long, but it was in business when the Navy faced a seminal moment in the development of its supply and logistics system.

In response to the actions of the Barbary Pirates and a declaration of war against the United States by Tripoli, Thomas Jefferson dispatched two squadrons to blockade the city and to engage any enemy ships they encountered. But while the intentions were honorable, the execution left a little to be desired. The length of the mission was of course unknown, and while voluminous amounts of basic commodities had been larded into the ships’ stores, they soon began to run lower and lower with each passing month. What’s more, the U.S. Navy vessels were not operating in an area where friendly ports were all around; in fact, there were very few places where they could enter port, resupply, and undertake repairs.

These were the difficulties of conducting operations far from a home port—difficulties that, though much reduced, still exist in one form or another to this very day.

In response, the U.S. Navy achieved a milestone in its history: In August, 1804, the ketch USS Intrepid carried out the first replenishment-at-sea operation, resupplying Commodore Edeward Prebles squadrons with food, clothing, and of course ammunition.

Today, the scope and ability of the Supply Corps to deliver equipment, comestibles, medicine, ordnance, and almost every other conceivable item necessary for shipboard existence and operation is simply taken for granted. But this level of efficiency did not simply happen; instead, it is the result of years of hard work, harder lessons, and tireless dedication to ensure that every ship and Sailor in the United States Navy is, as the Supply Corps motto says, “Ready for Sea.”

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