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Projected Alaskan military growth spurs fact finding mission.

In zero degree temperatures, before the sun comes out, a dockworker puts on his cold weather "mustang suit" and trudges out to the work site. It's a traditional routine in the Alaskan winter, but this is no ordinary worker: Col. Ace Chen has just suited up for a seaport mission in Alaska, and he intends to learn all he can about operating in this challenging environment.

Chen, commander of the 597th Transportation Terminal Group, headquartered at the Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point in Southport, North Carolina, has come to Alaska as part of a Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command fact finding study. In order to provide responsive customer service, Chen knew SDDC leaders had to examine the recent troop increase as well as projected growth of forces in Alaska. Given the pending expansion in all Services of the U.S. forces in Alaska in the coming 6-24 months, Chen wants to know the right mix of distribution skills and personnel to meet the new requirements.

"The first thing is to make our leadership fully aware of the growth potential in Alaska," Chen said, "so we're empowered to meet new requirements with the right force mix." After having met with transportation leaders in the area, including the former Alaskan Governor Bill Sheffield, and now the serving Director, Port of Anchorage, Chen has a better idea what those new requirements are.

From the United States Army Alaska G4, and the Fort Richardson Director of Logistics and Installation Transportation Officer, Chen received a full briefing on the deployment and distribution challenges of our largest state. Over 80 percent of all commodities purchased by Alaskans flow through the seaport of Anchorage, spurring a competition for limited staging areas.

"Our forces here are expanding rapidly, both as part of our Army's force restructuring and the return of forces from overseas. As these forces realign themselves to the Alaskan theater, we look forward to more permanent manning solutions for our deployments and movement operations," said Installation Transportation Officer, Dave Buirge.

While visiting the Director of Logistics, J4 Alaskan Command on Elmendorf Air Force Base, Chen was offered planning assistance to help identify the new customer base. Based on inputs received from regional experts, Chen is busy crafting a plan of action. Some recommendations for the future may include increasing manning the SDDC Anchorage office, and maximizing synergy in surface movement planning and execution by co-locating Military Sealift Command elements with SDDC assets.

SDDC's 833rd Transportation Battalion services Alaska with port operations support. Their battalion commander is Lt. Col. Mike Balser, who said "Our battalion from Seattle operates out of at least four ports in Alaska ... this vast area demands more effective ways to meet our customers' needs, and the 597th TTG is addressing that need. Meantime, this is an inspiring, and beautiful, place to operate. We consider ourselves fortunate."

Photos by Lt. Col. Mike Balser, Commander 833rd Transportation Battalion

Capt. Alex Padgett, 833rd Transportation Battalion Operations

833rd Transportation Battalion
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Author:Padgett, Alex
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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