“What makes the joint assessment team successful is that we can get a good assessment of the airfield and initial distribution system,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jenny Pickett, commander of the 571st and joint assessment team lead.
“We provide specific and actionable recommendations back to the U.S. Transportation Command where they can direct the arrival of the Joint Task Force – Port Opening package and any additional support necessary to cover logistical elements as personal cargo, equipment we need to move, security, bed down support, and so on,” he emphasized.
One of the main capabilities Surface Deployment and Distribution Command brings to the joint team is its early entry deployment support kits for the in transit visibility aspect of the mission. All cargo tagged with radio frequency identification arriving and leaving the airfield would be identified and tracked.
“The support kit is designed to be placed in the flow of a traffic area,” said Steve Gutridge, information technology specialist for the 834th. “It captures every piece of Army or Air Force equipment sporting a radio frequency identification tag. The kit’s interrogator will read the data from the tag and upload it to a server so anyone could find out where their equipment is.”
The early entry deployment support kits can read tags on equipment as they pass through or are within 300 feet of its interrogators.
“My task at Ardent Sentry 06 was to get the communications installed and working so all air and surface key members could talk to each other,” Gutridge said. “Then get the support kits up and running and demonstrate our in transit visibility capabilities for cargo and equipment.”
“I think this is a tremendous learning experience for both Army and Air Force working together,” McClean said. “Prior to deploying to Selfridge, we did some training with the Air Force side of the joint assessment team.”
“Some functions like the air field assessment and distribution assessment are performed individually by the Air Force and Army respectively. About 70 percent of the joint assessment team assessments are done jointly like security, communications, mission planning, etc.”
McClean told a story when he was part of Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994. Upon arriving in the country to do his mission, he went searching for his unit’s equipment which was already staged at the airfield he was at.
“We went to open a port to bring in the ships for this mission,” McClean said. “After we arrived and we went to the airfield to get our equipment, there were about a hundred or so pallets arbitrarily placed around the airfield.”
“We were told to just go look and find what was ours. There was no one to do onward distribution at that time when pallets came in,” he noted. “Stuff just got piled up at the airfield and it was up to us to search for what was ours.”
McClean mentioned that experience was a prime example of why Joint Task Force – Port Opening is important today.
“I think the fact that we’re looking at distribution more than just outside of the traditional mode – air, and then surface – integrating the two services for this mission is definitely the way to go.” Pickett said.