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599th shares lessons learned from duty in Southwest Asia.

Nearly nine months after the first boots of 599th Transportation Group Soldiers and civilians touched down on the Port of Ash Shuaiba, Kuwait, the team is back at their home station of Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii.

The group deployed to Southwest Asia to stand-up the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command SWA, which became the 595th Transportation Group (Provisional) in early January.

While serving as the Single Port Manager for the warfighters of the region, the 599th personnel learned many valuable lessons about what it takes to sustain SDDC operations in a forward deployed location.

With the real possibility of continued operations in the region, the 599th looks back at what helped make their time there such a success.

Pre-Deployment

"Pre-deployment training and mission rehearsals are critical to the success of any mission," said Mr. Gonzo Rivera, 599th Transportation Group exercises and contingency planner for the command operations center. "This is important in our day-to-day commitment to provide warfigthers with Force Flow Deployment and sustainment cargo distribution support, but it is particularly essential and critical that we be fully trained, capable, and ready when supporting real-world operational requirements for combat operations."

According to the retired sergeant major, one of the most fundamental things done by the 599th prior to departing was hands-on and instructional training. "Various forms of training were completed by our team. The group participated in classroom refresher training in ship loading and stowage, Integrated Computerized Deployment System (ICODES), Worldwide Port System (WPS), and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag writing and reading," Rivera said.

Additionally, he noted, "The performance oriented training with the largest real-world deployment of the 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii to Iraq and Afghanistan benefited the team by enabling the identification of any skill or task training that needed to be supported further."

Furthermore, the reception and integration of Reserve Component Units and Individual Mobilization Augmentees early on in the training and mission support process allowed them to be fully prepared prior to the actual deployment to Kuwait.

Among a myriad of other preparations done by the 599th, the use of the Soldier Readiness Processing program was key in a smooth delivery of SDDC forces to the forward operating location.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Shelita Johnson, 599th Transportation Group military personnel specialist, "Utilizing the Family Support Programs, medical and dental screening, and organizing legal and financial matters prior to the actual movement of SDDC forces to the combat zone ensured 100 percent preparedness."

"The use of these programs mitigated some of the family, legal and financial problems that could eventually affect Soldier readiness in the combat zone and consequently have an adverse effect on the Soldier's ability to perform his duties to his or her fullest potential," added Rivera.

Deployment

"During the deployment and execution of our Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom missions we tapped into a lot of the training we underwent prior to departure," said Maj. Jennifer Smith, 599th Command Operations Center chief. "Part of the benefit of this was the well trained and motivated Deployment Support Units and Teams. The value-added came from ensuring unit equipment was labeled and prepared for deployment, significantly reduced frustrated equipment and backlog at the port, and transporters served as the experts they are to make the warfighters transit much easier."

In addition to the benefits of training, Rivera pointed out that open and continuous communication with planners and operational executers was key.

"The rotation of SDDC forces must be well planned and understood, each soldier and civilian must clearly understand the big picture and how they fit into it," he said. "Additionally, a smooth transfer is only possible when the receiving unit has a well-devised plan for reception, integration, and assumption of responsibilities."

As the 599th team settled into the area many of the personnel made special connections with local business and port managers. Navy Reserve Cmdr. Randall Ramian said, "The motivation of our people was evident in our mission and personal accomplishments. An important thing to keep in mind is to culturally prepare for your location by learning about local customs and courtesies. Fully engaging in your surroundings helps lift spirits and enhances the overall group effectiveness."

Post-Deployment

Upon arrival back to the Aloha State the team was able to quickly reintegrate into their work environment by being prepared to complete all post-deployment travel documents and participate in the return of deployable inventory.

The members of the deployed 599th are now able to reflect on all they achieved during their time in Southwest Asia.

While operating in a combat zone to support the warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 599th loaded and offloaded more than 200 vessels with 141,000 pieces of critical military cargo in support of the Coalition Forces Land Component Command. Additionally, the people designated to the Container Management Element coordinated the emptying and reuse of these government and commercial containers reducing the detention bill by $3,720 per day.

Col. Thomas A. Harvey, the Groups' commander, said the tireless efforts of both those deployed and those at home station made the rotation a success. "The entire unit pulled together to ensure the mission was accomplished," he said. "I'm forever thankful and proud of all the team has carried out."

Since the 599th's return, the Group has helped return many units back to their home station in Hawaii--offering once again, the best end-to-end service available for surface deployment and distribution.

Robyn Mack, Public Affairs Specialist

599th Transportation Group
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Author:Mack, Robyn
Publication:Translog
Date:Sep 22, 2005
Words:908
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