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MTMC validates new port of entry to Bosnia theater.

Only a few years ago, equipment for American peacekeeping troops in Bosnia arrived by train via a long, elongated route.

When we began using Rijeka, Croatia, in August 1998, we cut two weeks off the shipping time and sped the flow of helicopters to theater.

Now, the 839th Transportation Battalion has opened a new Adriatic Sea gateway for Bosnian peacekeeping movements.

We have validated the use of Koper, Slovenia, as an entry point for equipment movements. MTMC transporters moved a task force of 29th Infantry Division troops from the Virginia and Maryland National Guard in August. Later in October, we rotated the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga., back home.

This successful action provides us with a rotation port location.

The operation had a special twist because the peacekeeping cargo moved through two overseas ports.

Aviation cargo was handled in Koper, while non-aviation cargoes and vehicles were the responsibility of MTMC's 950th Transportation Co., in Bremerhaven, Germany.

For us, the operation began in early August, with the arrival of the MV Express, carrying cargo from Howland Hook, N.Y., and Beaumont, Texas. The vessel carried 36 helicopters. The rest of the 84 pieces of cargo included containers and vehicles.

We had no problems with the latter cargo. The helicopters presented a challenge. They had to be towed over 600 meters from the ship's ramp to the staging area. This is a long tow. We were presented with several challenges that ranged from traffic management to risk assessment.

Once in the staging area, the aircraft were immediately assembled by DynaCorp contractors for the direct flight into Bosnia. The remaining containers and vehicles were shipped out by rail.

We were back in Koper in late September to return the equipment of the earlier task force home. The last helicopter to be shipped arrived Sept. 29.

Loading of the USNS Pililaau, a large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship began Oct. 3. To load the 39 helicopters, a steep ramp from ship-to-shore presented the biggest challenge.

Under such conditions, you can never be too careful. The first UH-60L Black Hawk took over an hour to load. Due to the steep grade, the nose of the helicopters passed very close to the ground as the helicopter was towed backwards up the ramp. And, at the top of the ramp, extreme caution had to be taken to protect the aircraft frame from coming in contact with the ship's superstructure.

We took a number of steps to lessen the ramp grade. They included:

* Adjusting helicopter struts,

* Using plywood sheets as dunnage, and

* Shifting ballast to the stern to decrease the loading ramp angles.

The steep incline of the ramp presented us with an even greater challenge as we began to load the OH-58, Kiowa Warrior, aircraft.

We added additional shoring to the base of the ship ramp to diminish the grade. Needless to say, the John Deere tractors and operators were priceless in maneuvering their valuable charges.

Another challenge was the heavy dew that made the ramp slippery. We put sand on the ramp to provide traction. Inside the ship, we used extra ground guides and carefully turned the helicopters at a much slower pace.

We finished the loading the same day -- the last helicopter was secure at 8 p.m. Two hours later, Pililaau sailed for Savannah, Ga.

Another reason for the operation's success was the battalion new laser scanners which we fielded in August.

The new scanners are better equipped. They provide an internal program that secures the data from loss. We quickly forwarded this documentation information to the 841st Transportation Battalion, Charleston, S.C.

Our MTMC colleagues there would need the documentation information when they discharged the Pililaau in Savannah.
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Article Details
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Author:Green, Gloria
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EXBO
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Previous Article:Busy port work includes visit by a favorite ship.
Next Article:MTMC transporters show grit at dockside.

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