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SDDC's Transportation Engineering Agency conducts port assessments in Africa.

As the premier DOD deployment engineering and analysis center, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's Transportation Engineering Agency strives to enhance force projection capability. One recent initiative accomplished under the auspices of the European Command "En Route Infrastructure Steering Committee" took two members of TEA's Deployability Infrastructure Branch tar from their Virginia offices to the continent of Africa on a "safari" of a different kind.

As part of an effort to improve the global deployability and sustainment of U.S. Armed Forces, Chuck Baker and Wayne Crews recently traveled on a unique expedition to Africa to seek out critical infrastructure information on the ports of Dakar, Senegal and Tema, Ghana. Providing their analytical expertise to support the National Military Strategy, their hunt took them on a fact-finding journey to assess the two seaports and the road and rail infrastructure while U.S. Transportation Command representatives rounded out the team assessing local airfields.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time TEA has been to Africa doing port assessments, said Baker. "The purpose of our trip was to assess the ports in terms of capability to support contingency operations in that region."

The team spent a week in Dakar and a week in Tema, Ghana speaking with functional experts of the ports, embassy staff, and commercial rail operators to gain critical infrastructure information for their capability analysis. Their findings will be submitted to EUCOM with evaluations of each port in terms of its capability as a Seaport of Debarkation for an Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a deployable command post, and a tailored sustainment element providing support to cooperative security locations in Africa designated by EUCOM. According to Baker, some areas of the ports were not evaluated based on lack of effectiveness for military use.

"These areas included piers for recreational fishing boats, the shipyard dry docks and special purpose piers," said Baker.

Assessing the capabilities of the two ports to meet deployment requirements had Baker and Crews evaluating transportability characteristics of each port to also ensure equipment could move safely and efficiently by current assets. Their observations often portrayed less than desirable conditions.

"We not only studied each port's capability, but we also looked at the road and rail connections, marshalling and staging areas, and potential convoy support sites," said Baker. "We studied things you would look for at a normal deployment site plus the connectivity between the ports and supporting air fields."

The team found berthing facilities at both the Port of Tema and Dakar to be quite capable but found that the staging areas, and highway and rail access would be a possible challenge. Baker said although the road to the Port of Dakar is tour lanes wide, the two outside lanes are normally impassable due to parked cars, street vendors or other obstacles.

Similar conditions were experienced in Tema but since Ghana is an English speaking country, the team was able to communicate with greater ease to obtain vital input from the local experts. Baker said he found the roads there to be a little more accessible.

"In Ghana, there are fairly good roads and the drivers are more disciplined," said Baker. "It may, though, be hard to get vehicles and equipment through the city around the ports. There are locals hawking items at all the traffic stops--and the congestion rivals 1-95 at rush hour."

The TEA team is working with USTRANSCOM and 598th Transportation Terminal Group planners as part of the EUCOM team on the African port assessments. They will file their report and hit the road again in mid-September to visit Poti, Georgia and Mombassa, Kenya.

June M. Pagan, Public Affairs Specialist

SDDC Operations Center
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Author:Pagan, June M.
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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