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Spotlight on the 841st Transportation Battalion: highlighting SDDC's Transportation Battalions around the world.

Charleston, S.C. is home to SDDC's 841st Transportation Battalion, commanded for nearly two years by Lt. Col. Paul McInnis. As part of Translog's series on the battalions within SDDC, the 841st is spotlighted here.

Translog: How many employees do you have, and what kind of jobs do they do?

Lt. CoL McInnis: There are 41 civilians and 9 military within the 841st, which includes the 956th Transportation Company located at Fort Monmouth, N.J. The bulk of our personnel are in the Traffic Management and Operations Sections. Traffic Management is responsible for the receipt, documentation and in-transit visibility of cargo utilizing the Worldwide Port System (WPS). They also coordinate for multimodal commercial transportation assets that support cargo clearance. Terminal Operations coordinates with commercial steamship lines and Military Sealift Command for vessel arrivals/departures, they develop vessel stow plans, interact with various Port Authorities and coordinate with the US Coast Guard for waterside security. We also have a very talented support staff that does everything from keeping our communications network operational to ensuring our administrative actions are complete.

Translog: What are your areas of responsibility?

McInnis: Our area of responsibility is from Savannah, Ga. to New York/ New Jersey. That's about 800 miles of shoreline. One of the remarkable things is that of the 15 strategic seaports designated by the Maritime Administration, seven lie within our AOR. In addition to these commercial facilities, we operate the two military piers located on Naval Weapons Station Charleston. The major customers we have responsibility for are 3d Infantry Division, XVIII Corps, 82d Airborne Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and 10th Mountain Division. When you look at where the bulk of the forces are and who is their primary provider of surface deployment and distribution support, it's the 841st.

Translog: What is the 841st's mission in a nutshell?

McInnis: Our mission is to deploy and conduct surface deployment distribution and water terminal port operations during peacetime and war to directly support and sustain the warfighter. That's the doctrinal mission but I think our role continues to expand and evolve as we become more of the end-to-end distribution process owner. We are no longer a "port centric" organization but one much more focused on the total deployment process. I think this is very evident by the Task Force missions we have executed over the past nine months.

Translog: What is SDDC's Task Force concept?

McInnis: The Task Force represents SDDC's single component responsible for the successful execution of a unit deployment. Normally committed to support a Brigade Combat Team equivalent size element, the Task Force is a combination of support from the Reserve Component Deployment Support Brigades, U.S. Coast Guard container inspectors and the terminal battalions; all of which are under the command and control of one SDDC commander. They synchronize the support concept, reporting procedures and deployment timeline. Since June of 2006, the 841st has executed these operations in support of the 3d Infantry Division, 82d Airborne and 10th Mountain.

Translog: Given that mission, how do you feel the 841st fits into SDDC?

McInnis: We support SDDC's national strategic mission by delivering and sustaining warfighting capability anywhere in the world. Whether it is conducting unit deployments in support of OIF/OEF rotations, the movement of up-armored HMMWV's or the execution of the Army's Afloat Preposition Program, the 841st is a leading element in implementing world-class deployment and distribution initiatives that enhance power projection. We understand the fluid nature of SDDC's transformation as it assumes more of the surface transportation mission and the need to leverage information technology to make it better.

Translog: How is the 841st important to the Warfighter?

McInnis: Deploying to a theater of operations is a complicated process. What we bring to the Warfighter is a team of experts who are trained to provide responsive and reliable customer support designed to make their deployment process as seamless as possible. Our main objective is to serve as an enabler that has the flexibility to meet the specific needs of the deploying unit. Our ability to safely and efficiently conduct deployment operations sets the conditions for combat power to arrive in theater as a cohesive fighting force.

Translog: What is your personal command philosophy?

McInnis: I have a few components that make up my command philosophy. First, safety has to be the number one priority in everything we do. This is a very dangerous business and hazards are at every turn. I feel that it is my responsibility to ensure we safeguard our personnel and equipment at all times. Second, we are in the customer support business and everyone needs to understand who the customer is, what is unique about their requirement, and how we support it. To do this effectively, we have to be the experts in our field and this means investing the time and energy into training our personnel to standard. Third, the environment we operate in is constantly changing and we must evolve with it. We must take a proactive approach to changes in technology and information systems to capitalize on their innovations. We must identify where we want to be in the next five years and establish the milestones that will help us get there. We should continually review our internal business processes and cross-train with commercial partners to adopt the best industry practices. This approach will glean operational efficiencies that expand our capabilities and enhance our fiscal responsibility, which is something we certainly owe the taxpayers. Lastly, every single person in this organization is vital to our success. I have to set the conditions for their success and job enrichment. I want them to be excited about coming to work everyday knowing that they are making a difference in the lives of our Soldiers. I want them to be extremely proud of their command, their mission and themselves.

Translog: What is unique about the 841st?

McInnis: I think the main thing that makes us unique is our location. Unlike many of the other battalions, we are not located at a commercial port but are positioned on a Naval Weapons Station. This provides some unique capabilities and challenges. With commercial seaports expanding at a rate of eight percent annually, we have a commodity that they cherish, which is space. Our 2.3 million square feet of staging area gives us quite a bit of flexibility to accomplish our mission. Our two deep-water piers give us control over our vessel schedule and represent tremendous savings to DoD in regards to strategic transportation costs. We even provide the discharge point for Military Sealift Command fuel tankers that provide aviation fuel to Charleston Air Force Base. Having responsibility for this infrastructure is an incredible responsibility and last year we spent over $18 million for facility repairs, building renovations, dredging and technology improvements such as CAISI Wireless.

Translog: What is the biggest challenge facing the 841st?

McInnis: I think we are indicative of all Army units fight now in that we are trying to transform ourselves while simultaneously supporting the heaviest sustained operational environment ever. I think every commander will tell you that he or she wishes they had more people and more time to accomplish their mission. But additionally, resources are probably not coming so we need to be creative in how we manage our mission requirements and training responsibilities while never losing site of the quality of life of our employees.

Translog: What is the battalion's greatest accomplishment?

McInnis: Executing our tremendous OPTEMPO over such a vast AOR and doing it safely. In FY 06, we moved over 35,000 pieces of cargo with only one Class D accident. This remarkable safety record is well below industry standards and that is why we were nominated for a Department of Army Safety award. I'm also very proud of what we have accomplished in regards to the movement of up-armored HMMWVs, deploying more than 19,000 of them since the start of 2006. These vehicles represent a significant improvement in the force protection of our Soldier and every time we load one, I know that a Soldier in theater is safer because of what we did. We have saved lives with this program. Lastly, I'm very pleased with the facility improvements we've made. We fought very hard for the funding that would take the aging infrastructure and slowly transform it into a state of the art facility full capable of conducting strategic transportation.

Translog: What do you want people to know about the 841st?

McInnis: The 841st is a world-class organization that is second to none. I've never worked with a more skilled workforce in my entire career. Every person is totally committed to their profession and understands the complex business environment we work in. Everyone knows that when the 841st is involved, the mission will get done right the first time. I couldn't be more proud of their dedication and professionalism. Their accomplishments are unbelievable. They are simply the best!

Interview and photos by Michelle Cain

SDDC Headquarters, Alexandria
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Article Details
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Author:Cain, Michelle
Publication:Translog
Article Type:Interview
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:1500
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