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Team Beaumont brings 1st Cav home.

On a gusty April morning, the first equipment of the 1st Calvary Division redeployment was being discharged off the USNS Benavidez. With more than 1,400 pieces, the vessel presented several challenges while signaling the beginning of a long journey home. The day of which many had planned for had arrived.

The Army's largest division, and only armored contingency force, technical savvy "First Team" was deployed to Iraq to protect Iraqis through their liberation, transition into democracy, and lastly their stabilization. After 15 months in Iraq under the command of Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the war fighters returned home.

The return of the USNS Benavidez to begin the redeployment was significant because it's the same vessel, which began the initial movement of the 1st CAV on December 17, 2003 on its maiden voyage from the Port of Beaumont, Texas. The vessel sailed with over 13,574 tons (230,000 sq. ft.) of combat equipment and supplies. The vessel returned with 250,040 sq. ft. of deck space used. The other three vessels scheduled to discharge at the port of Beaumont are the Cape Vincent, the USNS Brittin, and the Cape Victory.

Almost a full month in advance of the first of four scheduled ship arrivals, the coordination-planning meeting was held in Fort Hood, Texas, the home of the division. Participants included Fort Hood Directorate of Logistics (DOL), the exclusive rail carrier Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Port Representatives for Beaumont and Corpus Christi ports, and advon members of the 1st Cav. The meeting entailed discussion about how to handle the challenges of battle damaged tanks, shipment of sensitive items, and the necessity to have a continuous recycling of railcars to sustain the redeployment movement at both of the ports. The meetings purpose was to clarify scheduling difficulties and to ensure that all parties were clear on the mission to bring the 1st Cavalry equipment home.

Other preparation included securing and confirming the tanks that were part of the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command reset program. The reset program involved identifying and sending damaged tanks directly from the Seaport of Debarkation to the depot for repair. This detail was significant because it would be more cost effective than sending tanks from the SPOD to home station and then incurring more charges sending them from home station to the depot. Ports also had to make sure to remove all sensitive items from the tanks prior to their departure.

The SDDC team at Beaumont was supported by the Port Support Activity along with P & O Ports in their challenge to discharge deadlined equipment off the vessel and load the same equipment onto railcars or truck beds. Msgt. Troy Taft, non-commissioned officer in charge for PSA, talked about some of the difficulties with the equipment.

"The first challenge was identifying the deadlined M1 tanks and other vehicles that had to be towed off. PSA was required to perform on the spot troubleshooting assessment on all equipment and determine what could start and what had to be towed. The next challenge was to safely get the equipment towed and still maintain a smooth discharge of the running cargo."

Another challenge prior to the cargo's arrival was the rate at which both the Ports of Beaumont and Corpus Christi would need for trains to be loaded, pulled, offloaded at the fort, and the empties returned to begin the cycle again. Since both port were going to have rail requirements during the same period of time, it was important to determine that the 1st Cav equipment was a priority and for all parties to deconflict scheduling to accommodate the mission. Although the equipment for movement would not always be readily available, the priority was to get it moved as efficiently and quickly as possible. Communication was the key to successful train movement and was facilitated by a daily conference call between the ports and rail carriers to determine the need for how many and what types of railcars.

Not only did the port have to coordinate the return of cargo back to the home station, but the rate at which the port was cleared was a factor. There was a need to try to clear the port of as much cargo as possible in order to prevent a bottleneck of equipment arriving from vessels. Through this endeavor, the role of the 1395th Transportation Terminal Brigade was significant. Along with rail loading, members of the Washington-based reserve unit staged equipment in the holding yards, loaded up tracks, and also completed billing for the truck movement. This was the unit's second major redeployment and the soldiers quickly adjusted to the frenzied pace. Terminals NCO Sgt. Lynnea Greene feels the best way to handle redeployment is through organization. "Everyday we got together a list of what type of trucks we'd need and the type of cargo to go on that truck. We also noted where the cargo was staged. We used the information to get ready for loading the next day. Redeployment is a day-by-day process where you need to be constantly aware of what cargo is leaving the port and what cargo remains."

With back-to-back redeployments boasting nearly 4,000 pieces, the port effectively coordinated truck movement with an overall high of nearly seventy trucks in one day.

Throughout the mission, it was important that both the port and fort kept ongoing communication to ensure that cargo was shipped and received effectively. 1st Cav representatives were on hand at the port to identify and resolve any issue with cargo. They confirmed both sensitive and battle damaged items through communication with the port, and they were able to inform the fort of impending cargo arrivals. Although the mission was great and the requirements tough, the 842nd Transportation Battalion has lived up to its motto. Under Lt. Col. Brian Sundin and Deputy Commander LCDR John Williams, "The Power of Yes" successfully brought home the "First Team" and proved that through preparation, communication and teamwork they can complete any task. Team Beaumont is an integrated staff boasting Active Duty, Reservist, and Civilian counterparts.

Norissa Barnes, intern 842nd Transportation Battalion
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Title Annotation:1st Cavalry Division
Author:Barnes, Norissa
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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