Augmentation at ports is part of formula for success.
The 842nd Transportation Battalion at Port Beaumont has capitalized on this concept by sponsoring more than 200 augmentees during the past two years with the support of SDDC Operations Center.
Using experts from both the Operations Center and Army reserve units adds value to port operations and is essential for successfully managing large scale deployment or redeployment missions, said Lt. Col. Brian Sundin, commander of the 842nd.
"Using augmentees benefits the command in three ways, said Sundin.
"The first benefit is that SDDC meets the needs of the immediate mission," he said. "Second, folks from the headquarters staff get a chance to come down and hone their skills. And third, when employees go back to headquarters, they go back more knowledgeable of what's happening out in the field."
With seven military and 31 civilians assigned to the 842nd, the unit relies on contract labor to stage and stow cargo and Port Support Activity units to operate, stage and service vehicles at the port. However, other special skills are sometimes required to get large cargo missions in and out of port quickly and safely.
"Also needed at the port are those with Worldwide Port System and Electronic Transportation Acquisition/ Global Freight Management experience," said Rose Ann Alderete, transportation operations specialist for the 842nd.
The WPS tracks all cargo, including hazardous material, sensitive cargo and supercargo (people). The Electronic Transportation Acquisition is used to generate commercial bills of lading for both truck and rail shipments.
Alderete said augmentees don't necessarily have to possess .just those two skills. Those who are flexible and have knowledge of cargo and terminal operations add value as well. "We have a two-week training course that we give reservists who are activated to work on the traffic management side of the house," she said.
One specialist who applied her skills to augment the 842nd is Master Sgt. Ingrid Hamilton, a traffic management specialist at SDDC Operations Center, Fort Eustis, Va.
She is one of about 20 augmentees temporarily assigned to the 842nd while the unit moved massive amounts of cargo in October at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom Ill.
Hamilton contributed to the mission's success by managing rail movement of deploying military equipment earmarked for Soldiers serving in Southwest Asia.
Part of her responsibility included working with the major railroads. Her mornings at Port Beaumont started with a telephone conference with SDDC Operations Center's rail team, major railroad representatives, and port and installation representatives involved in deployment and redeployment moves.
"I would make sure everyone knew what Port Beaumont's needs were, and how much rail we could actually take in," said Hamilton. "The main thing was to get the equipment into the port on time for vessel loading and ensure enough empty rail for offloading."
"You get to see your support of the warfighter in real-time." said Hamilton. "I get excited because it is such a challenge to move cargo and I want to outdo myself every time. It's a rewarding job and I feel a part of history."
Sundin said it's not easy for the Operations Center, or any organization, to voluntarily let their people go for any period of time to augment in the field, especially when everyone these days is doing more with less. "Still," he said. "the Center continues to send quality people to augment the ports that need them."
Mitch Chandran, Public Affairs Specialist