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TRANSCOM Moves Fuel, Food, Troops on Ships, Trucks, Planes, Trains

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2006 – Officials at U.S. Transportation Command headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., call themselves the "ing" command, because they're always supporting other commands.

They call the geographic combatant commands the "ed" commands, because they're the ones supported, Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth J. McQuiston, the command's senior enlisted leader, told his peers from the "ed" commands here today.

Senior enlisted leaders from combatant commands and the service senior enlisted advisors and their spouses are meeting in the Pentagon this week at the invitation of Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"There's not a person in this room -- even you spouses - who's not affected by U.S. TRANSCOM," McQuiston said.

The command's mission focuses on global requirements to move troops, weapons and systems, and sustainment items. "It's all about getting our troops to the front," McQuiston said.

He explained TRANSCOM missions fall into four broad categories: getting "shooters to the fight," sustaining them when they get there, supporting rapid-force maneuver requirements and patient movements, and bringing the warfighters home.

They accomplish this through several subordinate commands.

Military Sealift Command includes 7,500 people -- 75 percent of them civilian merchant mariners -- to transport cargo around the world on a variety of seagoing vessels.

Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is TRANSCOM's Army wing. This command provides command and control and distribution operations once cargo reaches its destination via ships, trains or planes.

More than 140,000 people -- 58 percent of them in the National Guard and Reserve -- make up TRANSCOM's largest component command, Air Mobility Command.

A civilian air fleet with 1,100 aircraft available for moving people and cargo also contributes to TRANSCOM's mission. McQuiston said the organization has "a huge reliance" on the civilian air fleet.

AMC uses several planes in its operations. The largest cargo plane in the U.S. military is the C-5 Galaxy. The Air Force operates 111 C-5s.

The 180 C-17 Globemasters in the U.S. fleet are used "at an extreme rate" in current military operations, McQuiston said. And the C-130 deserves is name "Hercules." He said the plane can "go anywhere and land anywhere."

In addition to the cargo aircraft, McQuiston said, AMC's KC-10 and KC-135 refuelers also are true workhorses. KC-10s are limited by their lack of defensive systems, meaning they can't fly into operational theaters.

Planes available through the Civil Reserve Air Fleet are "huge partners" in helping TRANSCOM move large amounts of people to far-flung reaches of the globe.

Military Sealift Command is particularly valuable because sea transportation is cheaper than air transport, particularly of cargo. Each of 11 "large, medium-speed, roll-on, roll-off" ships can carry the equivalent of up to 420 C-17 loads worth of cargo, McQuiston said.

When the Army's 10th Mountain Division recently deployed to Afghanistan, the division's cargo was moved via ship to Rota, Spain, then "transloaded" via C-130 into Afghanistan. McQuiston said this cooperative means of transporting the cargo meant it arrived days before the unit expected it in theater.

Civilian sustainment partners also are very valuable in moving food, fuel and supplies. McQuiston said they're particularly helpful because they can often be available on very short notice.

U.S. Transportation Command also has many other missions people generally forget about in their interest in getting beans and bullets to warfighters.

For example, the command runs an icebreaker service to allow ships to transport supplies to scientific missions at the South Pole and maintains and crews Air Force One for presidential travel, as well as being responsible for transporting U.S. dignitaries around the world and throughout the United States.

And through the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, TRANSCOM moves household goods for all military members making an official move.

Since the beginning of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Transportation Command assets have made more than 2 million truck shipments in the U. S., 62,000 airlift missions, 114,000 rail car shipments, and 673 shiploads of cargo.

They have also moved more than 7.6 million short tons of dry cargo by air and sea, 3 million passengers, and 3.2 billion gallons of fuel.

But, McQuiston added, the command's leaders are most proud of having moved 33,384 patients during that period with no lives lost in transport. "That's the thing we really hang our hats on in U.S. TRANSCOM," he said.

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