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Partnering with the Air Force: SDDC's 834th Transportation Battalion brings distribution capabilities to new Joint Task Force-Port Opening mission.

The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command s (SDDC) 834th Transportation Battalion demonstrated its logistics capability at Selfridge Air National Guard Base May 10 and 11, while partnering with the Air Force in a first-ever Joint Assessment Team (JAT) supporting the new Joint Task Force--Port Opening (JTF-PO) mission during Ardent Sentry 06.

The JAT was composed of members from the 834th Transportation Battalion, Naval Weapons Station, Calif. and the 571st Contingency Response Group at Travis AFB, Calif.

JTF-PO is a command and control expeditionary capability to rapidly establish an initial theater port of debarkation, deployment and distribution operations supporting military contingencies, humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.

The JAT exercise demonstrated SDDC's ability to deploy personnel and equipment within hours of notification and execute a joint assessment of an airfield for air and surface distribution.

Upon arrival at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, the JAT's first task was to assess and ensure the security of the airfield. Simultaneously, other JAT members focused on setting up communications and working their checklist of other assessments.

"We are doing some tremendous work," said Col. David McClean, commander of the 834th. "Our objectives are to deploy, establish security, communications, operations and conduct a joint assessment for airfield distribution operations."

"Once we (Army and Air Force JAT members) deploy and arrive to a location, the first thing we do is establish security," McClean said. "We send out a joint force protection team to make sure we are in a secure environment. In a non-passive environment we would be preceded by organizations such as the Rangers or an airborne insertion and they would seize the air field. Once the airfield is seized and secure, then we would come in and conduct the assessments for the JTF-PO commander."

McClean mentioned this assessment determines the feasibility of the distribution node to conduct the mission. The JAT makes critical recommendations to USTRANSCOM as to what JTF-PO package is required to conduct the mission.

The JAT has a 24-hour window to complete all assessments and report back to the U.S. Transportation Command with a specific JTF-PO package required to operate effectively at a location. For Ardent Sentry 06, the joint team was tasked to assess Selfridge ANGB. The team performed the assessments and reported their recommendation of a medium-plus JTF-PO package to receive and distribute about 560 short tons per day.

"What makes the JAT successful is that we can get a good assessment of the airfield and initial distribution system," said Air Force Col. Jenny Pickett, commander of the 571 st and JAT lead. "We provide specific and actionable recommendations back to USTRANSCOM where they can direct the arrival of the JTF-PO package and any additional support necessary to cover logistical elements as personal cargo, equipment we need to move, security, bed down support, and so on."

One of the main capabilities SDDC brings to the joint team is its Early Entry Deployment Support Kits (EEDSK) for the in-transit visibility aspect of the mission. All cargo tagged with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) arriving and leaving the airfield would be identified and tracked.

"The EEDSK is designed to be placed in the flow of a traffic area," said Steve Gutridge, information technology specialist for the 834th. "It captures every piece of Army or Air Force equipment sporting a RFID tag. The EEDSK interrogator will read the data from the tag and upload it to a server so anyone could find out where their equipment is."

The EEDSK can read tags on equipment as they pass through or are within 300 feet of its interrogators.

"My task at Ardent Sentry 06 was to get the communications installed and working so all air and surface key members could talk to each other," Gutridge said. "Then get the EEDSK up and running and demonstrate our in transit visibility capabilities for cargo and equipment."

"I think this is a tremendous learning experience for both Army and Air Force working together," McClean said. "Prior to deploying to Selfridge, we did some training with the Air Force side of the JAT. Some functions like the air field assessment and distribution assessment are performed individually by the Air Force and Army respectively. About 70 percent of the JAT assessments are done jointly like security, communications, mission planning, etc."

McClean told a story of when he was part of the Haiti invasion. Upon arriving in the country to do his mission he went searching for his unit's equipment which was already staged at the airfield he was at.

"We went to open a port to bring in the ships for this mission," McClean said. "After we arrived and we went to the airfield to get our equipment, there were about a hundred or so pallets arbitrarily placed around the airfield. We were told to just go look and find what was ours. There was no one to do onward distribution at that time when pallets came in. Stuff just got piled up at the airfield and it was up to us to search for what was ours."

McClean mentioned that experience was a prime example of why JTF-PO is important today.

"I think the fact that we're looking at distribution more than just outside of the traditional mode--air, and then surface--integrating the two services for this mission is definitely the way to go." Pickett said.

Mitchell B. Chandran

SDDC Headquarters, Alexandria
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Author:Chandran, Mitchell B.
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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