MG Richardson visits 595th Transportation Brigade
September 19, 2013
By Sarah Garner
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - Change was the theme of the week as SDDC Commanding General Maj. Gen. Thomas Richardson traveled to the 595th Transportation Brigade to conduct his quarterly site visit.
Much of the brigade's headquarters and its subordinate units are in the middle of a process known as a RIP, or relief in place. A RIP occurs when one unit is at the end of its deployment and the unit's time in theater intentionally overlaps with the replacement unit's so they may work side by side to transfer the mission.
Currently, the 1398th Transportation Battalion is being relieved by the 1174th Transportation Battalion. Both are Army Reserve units made up of soldiers from all over the United States, but primarily from Delaware, Maryland and California. The soldiers are assigned to SDDC's Deployment Support Command.
"This is the perfect time for me to visit our folks out here at the 595th (Transportation Brigade). There are a lot of new faces in these units, which means they come in with a fresh perspective. It also means we need to conduct a good transition to get them up to speed on the issues impacting the unit or detachment they're joining," said Richardson. "I want them to ask questions. What's the process and does it make sense? How can I improve it or enhance it to get the mission done? Do I have what I need to do the job-the right tools, training, etc.? We need to be continually evaluating and resist the urge to maintain the status quo. This is an important mission and we only get one chance to do it right."
Richardson's visit kicked off when he officiated the brigade's change of command ceremony Sept. 5. Col. Andrew Peters transferred his duties as the 595th Transportation Brigade commander to Col. David Banian.
Banian is no stranger to SDDC and the 595th Transportation Brigade. He commanded one of the brigade's subordinate units, the 840th Transportation Battalion, during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn, and was twice assigned to SDDC's higher headquarters, U.S. Transportation Command, in the Deployment and Distribution Operation Center.
"The brigade is in good hands," said Richardson. "Banian has an understanding of tactical to strategic level transportation issues. This makes him the right person to lead the 595th during the Department of Defense's retrograde from Afghanistan."
After the change of command, and a multitude of briefings and office calls with key military logistics leaders and staff at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Richardson turned his attention to the 840th Transportation Battalion and its subordinate detachments.
The commander of the 840th Transportation Battalion, Lt. Col. Damian Green, provided Richardson with a mission brief before taking him on a tour of the Port of Shuaiba and operations center.
During the mission brief, Green said, "Sir, Mr. Francisco Aguirre (traffic management specialist, 840th Transportation Battalion) and myself, are the only two individuals in this room who have been here for any length of time. The rest of the staff lining the table, and much of the staff working in the 840th's operation's center down the hall, have been at the unit for two months or less, but in standard Army fashion everyone has gotten up to speed quickly."
The 840th Transportation Battalion is headquartered in Kuwait, but has subordinate units across the Central Command area of operation.
The 840th's subordinate detachments, which include active and Reserve military and civilian personnel, are heavily focused on orchestrating multi-modal operations - operations in which cargo is transported using multiple modes of transportation such as air, rail, truck and vessel.
"While each detachment operates under a unique set of circumstances, all of them support the same mission - ensuring military cargo being transported in the CENTCOM AOR gets where it needs to be, is on time and is in the right condition, " said Banian "Making sure all the pieces are choreographed is the key."
While touring the Port of Shuaiba, the battalion's Kuwait Detachment commander, Capt. Kenneth Hennessy, explained that the current operations at the port are in sharp contrast to what they were during the operational surge phases and drawdown of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Today, there is a trickle of cargo and military rolling stock, as compared to the past when cargo filled each holding and staging yard, including the pier staging area and helo yard. Now, with the cargo volume being smaller and being spread out among other port locations in theater, and with tracking systems being more integrated, cargo flows fluidly through the port from truck or plane to vessel and vice versa," said Hennessy.
Throughout the port visits at each detachment, it was clear that Hennessy was correct. Staging yards were not packed, but there was a steady flow of cargo moving through each unit's AOR.
"The difference between Afghanistan and Iraq," Banian explained "is that Afghanistan is land-locked with some treacherous terrain and has no easy access to ports. We have to use multiple routes and modes to get the equipment in and out of the country."
In less than a week, Richardson traveled approximately 3,500 miles in the 595th's AOR visiting SDDC units.
His agenda didn't leave much white space between the port tours, briefings, air and ground movements to detachment sites, meals in Army dining facilities with soldiers and civilians, office calls with host country leaders and partners and process overviews with individual Soldiers. The white space at the end of each day's agenda was just enough to squeeze in a few hours of sleep.
Throughout the fast-paced trip, Richardson emphasized again and again the importance of the retrograde mission and continued support to the warfighter, and how each unit's scope of responsibility is much greater than in years past. He also engaged in extensive dialogue about processes, procedures, challenges and lessons learned with personnel in each unit.
"Think critically. This isn't only about loading and offloading vessels. This is about being smart about the way we're doing business from the beginning to the end. Monitor and manage the process. That's our job," said Richardson.
SDDC manages 87 percent of the cargo coming out of Afghanistan, with the 595th Transportation Brigade being the critical node in the region. In its key role as the air-surface integrator, SDDC orchestrates the multi-modal transportation operations being used to get cargo in and out of Afghanistan.
SDDC is a unique Army command that delivers world-class, origin-to-destination distribution solutions. Whenever and wherever Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are deployed, SDDC is involved in planning and executing the delivery of their equipment and supplies through surface and multi-modal transportation operations.
The command, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is composed of active and Reserve military and civilian personnel stationed all over the world. SDDC accomplishes this mission by partnering with the best of U.S. commercial shipping, port, air, trucking and rail services to deliver cargo to every corner of the globe supporting Department of Defense contingencies, exercises and humanitarian aid missions.