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Transportation Group members support tsunami relief efforts.

The global structure of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command was in full force as team members from the 599th Transportation Group and 595th Transportation Group (Provisional) joined together Jan. 4 to 20 in support of Operation Unified Assistance in the tsunami devastated areas of Thailand.

The team made up of servicemembers and civilians from Headquarters 599th, Hawaii; 595th (Provisional), Southwest Asia; and subordinate units from the 835th Transportation Battalion, Okinawa, Japan; 836th Transportation Battalion, Yokohama, Japan; and, 837th Transportation Battalion, Pusan, Korea, formed the 599th Deployment and Distribution Support Team, served as the U.S. Pacific Command's single port manager in the relief efforts.

According to Lt. Col. Drefus Lane. 599th DDST and 836th Trans. Bn. commander, the joining of forces is a true testament to the abilities of SDDC.

"Even though each of the members has a specific role they carry out at their home station, as they come together you see the true range of their skills and understanding for the SDDC mission," Lane said. "These guys are helping expand each others expertise, all while providing the best possible service to the customer."

The team managed all operations for the delivery of humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies at the Ports of Laem Chabang and Chuk Samet, Thailand. Their efforts included the discharge of a high-speed vessel and preparations for ships from the Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Three. Additionally, the team worked split operations at the aerial port of debarkation in Singapore.

As the single port manager, the 599th DDST used radio frequency identification tag technology during the mission to ensure 100 percent in-transit visibility for the commander of the Combined Task Force 536.

Equipment and cargo for the operation included the delivery of the first humvees, cargo trucks and fork lifts; as well as, food, fuel, medical supplies, construction and road building equipment, electrical power generating equipment, airfield matting and a Navy field hospital.

During the discharge of the Westpac Express High Speed Vessel, the 599th DDST managed the offload of more than 90 Marines and 75 pieces of equipment at the Port of Chuk Samet, Thailand.

The Marines aboard the vessel, from the 7th Communications Battalion, Okinawa, Japan, brought the first military vehicles to the area, said Mr. Fred Artis, 599th DDST Operations Officer from the 835th Transportation Battalion, Japan.

Members of SDDC traditionally operate the Port of Chuk Samet during exercises and operations in Thailand, said Artis. "So, our presence here is vital, because we have vast knowledge and understanding for the port's capabilities."

With extensive knowledge of the area, members of the 599th DDST team ensured timely discharge and accurate accountability for the equipment by creating tally checkpoints for the Marines and their cargo.

"The main function for us during this process was to ensure an accurate count of the discharged equipment and cargo," said Sgt. 1st Class Frank Viray, Headquarters, 599th Transportation Group. "The information was then entered into the Worldwide Port System, where commanders had visibility of these resources in the delivery process."

During other vessel operations and APOD initiatives, the 599th DDST relied on the RFID system to give an accurate account of the supplies being delivered to the people affected by the tsunami.

Sgt. 1st Class Paul Guerrero, from the 835th Trans. Bn. said, "As each piece of required equipment was discharged from the ship, it was be marked with an RFID tag. Then the tag is then scanned and imported into WPS, so commanders can track the equipment as it makes its way to the final destination."

RFID tags are used for 100 percent of deploying cargo. The information contained within the tags provides leaders with information on what the equipment is and where it is going. This helps to develop a common operating picture on demand, which in turn provides leaders visibility of their capability flowing to the devastated areas of Thailand.

And, while some relief efforts may be scaling down, the 599th DDST's job is not yet complete. Six members of the team will soon be serving as authorities for continued port operations in Sri Lanka.

"The versatility and responsiveness of our group has gone unmatched during the operations here," said Lane. "We play a crucial role in ensuring that the right supplies are getting to where they're needed when they're needed."

The 599th Transportation Group and its subordinate units, under the command of Col. Thomas A. Harvey, provide deployment command and control, and support surface distribution operations for the PACOM Area of Responsibility and Operations.

Robyn, Mack, Public Affairs Specialist

599th Transportation Group
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Author:Mack, Robyn
Geographic Code:9THAI
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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