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First-Ever Joint Team Improves Distribution
The Army partnered with the Air Force in a first-ever joint assessment team supporting
the new Joint Task Force – Port Opening mission during exercise Ardent Sentry ‘06.
By Mitch Chandran / Surface Deployment and Distribution Command Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., June 13, 2006 – The Army’s Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s 834th Transportation Battalion demonstrated its logistics capability at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, May 10 and 11, while partnering with the Air Force in a first-ever joint assessment team supporting the new Joint Task Force – Port Opening mission during exercise Ardent Sentry ‘06.

The joint assessment team was composed of members from the 834th Transportation Battalion, Naval Weapons Station, Concord, Calif. and the Air Force’s 571st Contingency Response Group at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

Joint Task Force – Port Opening is a command and control expeditionary capability designed to rapidly establish an initial theater port of debarkation, aiding in deployment and distribution operations supporting military contingencies, humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.

The joint assessment team exercise demonstrated Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s ability to deploy personnel and equipment within hours of notification and execute a joint assessment of an airfield for air and surface distribution.

"What makes the joint assessment team successful is that we can get a good assessment of the airfield and initial distribution system."

U.S. Air Force Col. Jenny Pickett

Upon arrival at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, the joint assessment team’s first task was to assess and ensure the security of the airfield. Simultaneously, other team members focused on setting up communications and working their checklist of other assessments.

“We are doing some tremendous work,” said U.S. Army Col. David McClean, commander of the 834th. “Our objectives are to deploy, establish security, communications, operations and conduct a joint assessment for airfield distribution operations.”

“Once we (Army and Air Force joint assessment team members) deploy and arrive to a location, the first thing we do is establish security,” McClean said. “We send out a joint force protection team to make sure we are in a secure environment.”

“In a non-passive environment we would be preceded by organizations such as the Rangers or an airborne insertion and they would seize the airfield,” he explained. “Once the airfield is seized and secure, then we would come in and conduct the assessments for the Joint Task Force – Port Opening commander.

McClean mentioned this assessment determines the feasibility of the distribution node to conduct the mission. The joint assessment team makes critical recommendations to the U.S. Transportation Command as to what Joint Task Force – Port Opening package is required to conduct the mission.

The joint assessment team has a 24-hour window to complete all assessments and report back to the U.S. Transportation Command with a specific Joint Task Force – Port Opening package required to operate effectively at a location.

For Ardent Sentry ‘06, the joint team was tasked to assess Selfridge Air National Guard Base. The team performed the assessments and reported their recommendation of a medium-plus Joint Task Force – Port Opening package to receive and distribute about 560 tons of cargo per day.

“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.

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Sep. 18, 2014
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