News   Lethality

Transcom Moves Troops, Gear Quickly to Project Power

Oct. 2, 2019 | BY David Vergun
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Projecting power by quickly moving people and equipment around the world based on the combatant commands' needs is a top priority for U.S. Transportation Command, Transcom's commander said. 

And to meet that global need, Transcom holds regular exercises and is exploring the use of artificial intelligence, Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons told the Defense Writers Group today in Washington.

A soldier in camouflage uniform and wearing a helmet uses arm signals to guide a tactical truck onto a yellow flatbed railcar.
Railway Signal
Soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., direct a Humvee onto a railcar during Exercise Dragon Lifeline at Joint Base Charleston’s Naval Weapons Station, S.C., Aug. 7, 2019. The readiness exercise included service members from Fort Bragg; Joint Base Charleston, S.C.; and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. It focused on the rapid deployment of equipment, vehicles and personnel. Participants shared knowledge and tested their efficiency in moving assets by air, land, rail and sea during the training event. Alt:
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
VIRIN: 190807-F-AD344-0845

Transcom moves people and equipment by directing the transportation elements provided by the various branches, including the Navy's Military Sealift Command, the Air Force's Air Mobility Command and the Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.

Lyons said exercises help officials evaluate, for example, how rapidly Transcom can activate a mix of Military Sealift Command and Transportation Department Maritime Administration ships on the East, West and Gulf Coasts. Activated ships are directed to transition from a reduced operating status to a fully crewed status — with quarters made habitable and cargo and gear ready — within five days. Activations commonly are followed immediately by a sea trial.

Transcom began such a readiness exercise Sept. 16, Lyons said.

Sailors in protective helmets and orange vests hold guide lines attached to a crane that is preparing to lift a shipping container.
Port Ops
Sailors assigned to Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 1 unload Army equipment belonging to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, during Rapid Port Opening operations as part of a joint readiness exercise in Gulfport, Miss., Sept. 18, 2019. These operations ensure a port’s ability to rapidly open and unload military equipment anywhere in the world.
Photo By: Army Pfc. Joshua Cowden
VIRIN: 190918-A-NJ297-1047

Such exercises usually involve only a few ships, the general said, but this event activated 32 vessels so officials could better assess their readiness. An exercise of this scale also tests the capabilities of the support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation's ready sealift forces, Lyons said.

It was a pressure test of the whole system, he said, and it validated the ability to activate ships to task. Of those 32 ships, most performed well, Lyons said, but Transcom is still awaiting the final results, which will be known in the coming weeks.

Lyons, who assumed command of Transcom in August 2018, said Transcom's ships are old - averaging 43 years - while commercial shipping averages about 15. Even so, he told the writers, they performed well during the exercise, even in the face of some storms that blew through.

Soldiers aboard a boat and wearing floatation vests observe as a large tactical truck goes down the boat’s ramp.
River Ops
Soldiers unload equipment from the landing craft U.S. Army Vessel New Orleans during a joint readiness exercise at Singing River, Miss., Sept. 14, 2019. The exercise validated the soldiers’ ability to deploy worldwide on short notice.
Photo By: Army Pfc. Joshua Cowden
VIRIN: 190915-A-NJ297-1085
A red-light fisheye image of a tactical truck inside a transport aircraft.
Humvee Exit
Air Force Tech Sgt. Scott Stueven, a loadmaster assigned to the 437th Operations Group, marshals a Humvee off the ramp of a C-17 Globemaster III during Exercise Dragon Lifeline at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 8, 2019. The deployment readiness exercise included service members from Fort Bragg; Joint Base Charleston, S.C.; and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. It focused on the rapid deployment of equipment, vehicles and personnel. Participants shared knowledge and tested their efficiency in moving assets by air, land, rail and sea during the training event.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Tenley Long
VIRIN: 190808-F-CB285-1242

The general said he encourages creative thinking that gives multiple options to commanders and dilemmas for adversaries. Artificial intelligence, for example, is a promising option, he said.

"We're definitely looking at it," he said. "We're trying to be disciplined in the approach. I absolutely see the power of data, particularly in the logistics enterprise."

Because much of Transcom's logistics is unclassified, there are opportunities to leverage commercial technologies in AI and machine learning, Lyons said, noting that it could improve decision making, forecasting and other important areas.

Military personnel remove a damaged military helicopter through the tailgate of a large transport jet.
Joint efforts recover broken bird
Military personnel remove a damaged Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 26, 2019. During a mission to support the USNS Comfort, the UH-60 crew had performed a precautionary landing in an austere environment in Costa Rica. After inspecting the Black Hawk, the crew determined that it was not safe to fly. Service members from Joint Task Force Bravo worked together, with the assistance of a C-17 Globemaster III from U.S. Transportation Command, to return the broken helicopter back to Soto Cano.
Photo By: Martin Chahin, Army
VIRIN: 190826-A-EW556-006

Lyons said Transcom has already developed an enterprise data environment as a proof of principle and moved a limited number of systems to the cloud. Over time, he added, the entire architecture will be moved to the cloud. Transcom has nearly 100 information technology systems, so it will take  a lot of work to bring it into a cloud computing environment to leverage the data, he said.

"But it's not a magic 'snap your fingers and you're there,'" he said. "It's a very arduous journey over time. We're a long way from AI today, but we're working through the fundamentals."