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839th Transportation Battalion excels in Egypt.

Another hot and humid day at the Southern Mediterranean coast where the SDDC's 839th Transportation Battalion is working the deployment and redeployment of forces during Operation Bright Star 2005.

The location is the port of Dikheila, on the northern coast of Egypt, where U.S. and multinational forces arrive and depart from this biannual exercise.

For the 839th Transportation Battalion out of Livorno, Italy, it is just another mission they will make a success.

Preparation for this mission began well before the actual start of Operation Bright Star, before any cargo could be discharged in the port, to include command and control nodes.

This would be the first time the battalion deployed with the Mobile Port Operations Center (MPOC), a state-of-the-art mobile command center deployed by commercial vessel providing secure and non-secure email, voice communications, automated transportation cargo documentation systems and even Armed Forces Network television!

Once the port was fully operational the ships pulled in and cargo began rolling.

Team members, both military and civilian, of the 839th Transportation Battalion, from the United States, Italy, Turkey, Greece and The Netherlands, kept things moving around the clock to ensure vessels were discharged and cargo cleared the port on time so the coalition force could meet its maneuver timelines.

The mission involved discharging some 2,500 pieces of cargo from five ships for the deployment and later redeploying the same cargo back on four vessels.

All units taking part in the Bright Star exercise have their rolling stock as well as their unit containers shipped through the port of Dikheila.

The 11th Transportation Battalion Unit Movement NCO, Staff Sgt. Donette Felle out of Ft. Story, VA, participated in her first Bright Star and this operation was not at all what she had expected. "I had expected it to be more chaotic, but it turned out to be a pretty well-directed move. We are impressed with the work the 839th does here in the port of Dikheila, Egypt."

Making sure this happens lies in the hands of Sullivan's team. Directing port operations is what the 839th Transportation Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Gene Sullivan, does best. In addition to deployment, they also assure the redeployment of all this material is executed in a safe, secure and timely manner.

"We ensure all cargo arriving and departing the port is accurately documented," says Michael Pittas, documentation specialist for the 839th Transportation Battalion's Greece Detachment.

"There are lots of challenges in the redeployment. There are all kinds of last minute changes that we need to implement," he said.

"Redeployment is indeed a big challenge; vessels that arrived from a single point suddenly, as a result of changing missions, return to multi-stop destinations. For just one vessel, cargo for the Jordanian Army, U.S. Air Force Central Command (CENTAF), and U.S. Army Central Command (ARCENT) cargo, were all planned to be loaded on the same vessel for different destinations.

Vessels redeploying cargo from this exercise would be required to stop in Jordan, Oman and then Kuwait, as well as two seaports of debarkation in the United States," said Patrizia de Sanctis, 839th Transportation Battalion Documentation Specialist.

Patriza Santis from Italy, along with Mehmet Akyldiz from Turkey and Michael Pittas from Greece, formed the nucleus of the day shift documentation team.

A few doors down the hall from the day shift documentation team, the contracting and port operations offices are co-located. From this office the four-million dollar port operation is executed while the budget is closely monitored.

Ralph Alpers, contract officer from the 598th Transportation Terminal Group, Capelle aan den IJssel, The Netherlands, said, "We carefully watch over everything that is done here. We do our best to guard the projected budget without compromising the operation.

"The challenge for us in Egypt during Operation Bright Star is to purchase the required appropriate items through the right channels. We can fulfill almost any authorized request some way or another but it has taken time to figure out how best to do business in Egypt."

"We always look a little further then the first option available," said Rene de Wit, budget analyst with the 839th Transportation Battalion's higher headquarters, the 598th Transportation Terminal Group out of The Netherlands.

One of the key personnel who routinely orders services during this operation is Christopher Cole, contract officer representative for the 839th Transportation Battalion.

One of Cole's main contracting functions is to negotiate with the Egyptian authorities on costs associated with hiring Egyptian transportation related services.

You can find him most of the time with the Egyptian Brig. Gen. Abuyazeed, head of Alexandria's port authority. Gen. Abuyazeed is the main Egyptian point of contact for all that happens in the port.

Salih Kuzu from the 839th Transportation Battalion's Turkey Detachment is fluent in the Arabic language and can be found translating for Cole most of the time when negotiating contracts with the Egyptian authorities.

During redeployment operations, meetings with Cole and Brig. Gen. Abuyazeed took place in the evening hours due to Ramadan which started early October, "this made for some very long days," Cole said.

"Negotiating all of the time really changed my view on operating when deployed. I want the battalion to get the best possible deal within the given contract." said Cole. "Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it can be rough; this is a great learning experience for me."

Contact between the Egyptians, host of this operation, and the U.S. Army is very intensive and beneficial for both parties. The Egyptians get a chance to practice their war fighting skills within a multinational force while the Americans practice rapid deployment and redeployment in a multinational expeditionary environment.

The 839th Transportation Battalion views this exercise as part of Army transformation in action. "In the past Bright Star exercises stretched over as much as a four month period, during this years operation we no sooner finished deployment when cargo began arriving for redeployment, a great training opportunity," Sullivan said.

Story and photos by Martin Weteling, Command Affairs Specialist 598th Transportation Group
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Title Annotation:Operation Bright Star 2005
Author:Weteling, Martin
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:598th transportation group recognizes 60 years of continued port support in northern Europe.
Next Article:SDDC's annual training symposium focuses on future.

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