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SDDC helps 25th Infantry Division move to two conflicts in two months.

For the second time in two months, the great gray bulk of the USNS Pililaau steamed from Pearl Harbor, loaded with equipment of the 25th Infantry Division--bound for a foreign contingency.

The Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-on/Roll-off vessel departed Feb. 18 carrying the equipment of 4,500 Soldiers of the division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team and supporting units, for Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan.

Just two months earlier, the Pililaau deployed with the equipment of 5,000 "Tropic Lightning" Soldiers bound tot Operation Iraqi Freedom, in Iraq.

"It is all pretty amazing," said Col. Tom Harvey, commander 599th Transportation Group, Wheeler Army Air Field, Hawaii, contemplating the two movements aboard a ship named for a Hawaiian Medal of Honor awardee.

Harvey said his unit focused on mission accomplishment while incorporating new ideas as the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's test bed for transformation initiatives.

"We used the opportunity to solidify process improvements with outreach support, loading by task force organization, and Radio Frequency Identification," said Harvey. "This time around we were completely integrated into the Tropic Lightening team and used our deployment expertise to assist the entire division movement process.

"The key to our success was the use of compo-integrated teams," said Harvey, stressing the use of teamwork of everyone in the movement process.

In all, the unit mobility teams and deployment support teams from the 599th Transportation Group deployed nearly 2,000 pieces of the division's equipment and containers.

The 599th effort included Soldiers from the 1394th Deployment Support Brigade, of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and SDDC's Radio Frequency Identification Unit Mobility Team. At Ford Island, a 599th deployment support team supported the Navy's Fleet and Industrial Supply Center, Pearl Harbor and Navy Port Handling Battalion personnel to safely load nearly 250,000-square-feet of cargo.

Lessons learned in the Operation Iraqi Freedom movement were incorporated in the current move, said Harvey.

"Our recent experience provided us with the seasoning for enhanced end-to-end in-transit visibility," said Harvey. "Group enablers were imbedded at every stage in the deployment process."

Radio Frequency Identification tags were used for 100 percent of the deploying cargo. The information was ultimately used to develop a common operating picture on demand, which provided division leaders visibility of their combat capability flowing to Afghanistan.

For the first time, the 599th was responsible for control of the installation's alert holding area--a key stage in the deployment process. At the alert holding area, all vehicle and hazardous material documentation is checked, equipment maintenance is inspected, and equipment dimensions and weights are verified.

The 599th adjusted quickly to the infantry division's operations tempo, said Maj. Jennifer Smith, chief, 599th Command Operations Center.

"With the deploying units training out in the field until two weeks prior to loading the vessel," said Smith, "there was no lead time to prepare the units' equipment for a surface deployment.

"It's a great credit to the enhanced support relationships developed that these 25th units processed through the alert holding area in four hours compared with the usual 12 hours."

Early work in the alert holding area saved time later, said Smith.

"Our expediters worked side by side with division unit movement officers at the Deployment Training Center to prepare military shipping labels and write Radio Frequency Identification tags three days in advance for each piece of equipment," said Smith. "At the holding area, another 599th support team worked on site to prepare any required updates as equipment processed through the various inspection points."

At the unit areas, 599th outreach teams provided guidance on secondary loads, hazardous material, documentation, prescanning of military shipping labels and Radio Frequency Identification tags, and other areas to prevent equipment being frustrated.

"The division noted a significant drop in frustrated equipment," said Smith. "Minor deficiencies were frustrating equipment and were easily corrected ... a change from past deployments."

Special instruction and advice was given to unit movement officers.

"The unit movement officer does not work on the automated systems and with the deployment process on a regular basis," said Smith.

"Ultimately," she said, "we want to get out to the units before they are notified of a deployment to ensure they have accurate information on their deployment equipment lists. Doing so would enhance processing equipment for a surface deployment and creating a vessel prestow plan."

SDDC's customer had high praise for the movement.

"The 599th personnel were exponential enablers throughout the entire deployment process," said Maj. Douglas Woolley.

"From the moment we received notification until the vessel departed Pearl Harbor, they were with us every step of the way providing hands-on expertise. I look forward to their continued assistance in upcoming deployments ... this is a partnership that has made a huge impact on how the 25th goes to war."
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Author:Kojima, Terri
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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