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TRANSLOTS 20909: real-world experience in a training environment.

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The pickup points for collecting retrograded equipment bound for the states sounded like the itinerary for a Caribbean cruise: Juana Diaz, Puerto Nuevo.

This was the mission on the island of Puerto Rico for 14 Reserve units representing seven states, participating in Transportation Logistics Over the Shore (TRANSLOTS) 2009 June 1-19. The goal of this year's exercise was to recover and transport equipment of the 1st Mission Support Command onward to Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. From there, the equipment was loaded onto a Logistics Support Vessel (LSV) and two Landing Craft Utility (LCU) watercraft bound for Port Canaveral, Fla.

Since being transformed from a Deployment Support Brigade to the 1190th Transportation Group in 2008, TRANSLOTS was a learning experience for the 1190th as much as for the units executing the plan.

"This is a training exercise for all of us," said Col. Walter T. Weaver, 1190th Trans. Group commander. "For most of us wearing the SDDC patch and who are assigned to the Deployment Support Command, this is the first time we have exercised in our new configurations."

Capt. LaMaudia Bentley, 743rd Sea Port Operations Company (SPOC) Commander, oversaw the convoys which brought the designated equipment to Roosevelt Roads. Bentley said it took three trips to Juana Diaz and four trips to Puerto Nuevo to collect it all.

"There's a lot of equipment to get off this island," she said. "My Soldiers have worked some really long hours."

Many 743rd Soldiers participated in last year's TRANSLOTS exercise, including Bentley, who said the operation is a great teaching tool.

"It's a great mission for training," said Bentley. "Hopefully our people get the big picture from it."

The operation offered transporters of various disciplines the opportunity to practice their jobs in a real-world scenario, as well as work with units with which they are not familiar.

In a perfect world, units deploy together, said Sgt. Jesse Axley, an intelligence analyst with the 359th Transportation Battalion out of Fort Eustis, Va., however that's not usually the case. He said the exercise was good for their Soldiers manning the boat transports, who have not yet deployed overseas, to learn to work with different personalities now rather than later.

"We're used to working with our subordinate units within our battalion," Axley said. "This has been a unique experience working with other battalions."

Capt. James Dumas, operations officer for the 359th Trans. Bn., who oversaw last year's TRANSLOTS exercise, said the "larger footprint" of this year's exercise compared to last year more resembles a deployment atmosphere.

"This is real world," he said. "We're getting the job done."

When the stern of the Maj. Gen. Robert Smalls (LSV 8) reached the coast of Puerto Rico, the second phase of TRANSLOTS 2009 also came into focus. LSV 8--named for a slave who went on to become a Civil War hero--and its crew from the 203rd Trans. Det. completed the six day journey from its home port in Baltimore, Md. to the Caribbean isle.

Lt. Col. Dianne Del Rosso, 359th Transportation Battalion Commander, said when she was invited to take the journey with the Maj. Gen. Robert Smalls crew she jumped at it.

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"This, to me, is how you find out how your Soldiers operate," she said. "It also gives you a flavor of how the battalion can do a better job of supporting them."

The all-reservist crew of eight warrant officers and 23 enlisted Soldiers possess varying levels of licensing and proficiency, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steven Brown--from the lowest level, where Soldiers are able to steer the vessel, plot a chart and tie various knots, to his level as vessel master. Brown, a fire department captain in his civilian occupation, has commanded the 203rd Trans. Det. since 2004 and has been the vessel master since LSV 8 was commissioned in 2007.

The LSV is the largest of the Army's watercraft at 273 feet, however, the 314-foot Maj. Gen. Robert Smalls is one of only two modified LSVs in the Army, making it capable of carrying even more cargo. Normally a 31-person crew, LSV 8 carried a crew of 42 for TRANSLOTS to allow reserve Soldiers from the other modified LSV unit to train on various tasks to become licensed.

Warrant Officer Michael Byrne, vessel master for one of two LCU watercraft from the 824th Heavy Boat Company out of Morehead City, N.C., said while the LCU technically could perform long-range, open-water missions like an LSV, its missions primarily keep it relatively close to shore. In his 14-year career in the Army, the five-day trip from Morehead to Puerto Rico was the farthest he had traveled.

Once loaded and secured, the vessels departed for the mainland and the final phase of TRANSLOTS 2009.

Four months of planning and execution culminated with the rapid off-loading of the three vessels over a span of three days. Despite its own set of challenges, discharge operations at Port Canaveral finished ahead of schedule.

"Our training for the year's exercise could not have been better," Weaver said. "I am very pleased with our units' performance."

By 1st Lt. Damiane Ricks,

1190th Transportation Group
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Author:Ricks, Damiane
Publication:Translog
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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