SDDC units finish redeployment of Cobra Gold 2009
March 16, 2009
Chuk Samet, Thailand - After setting up surface portions of the move, a traffic management specialist from the 599th Transportation Group headquarters and a deployment and distribution support team from the 835th Transportation Battalion moved III Marine Corps Expeditionary Force cargo from the port of Chuk Samet, Thailand, Feb. 28 and March 1, during the last phase of the redeployment for Cobra Gold.
Both the 835th and III MEF are headquartered on Okinawa, Japan. The same team had come from Okinawa early in February to move the unit's cargo into Thailand at the beginning of the 14-day exercise, said Capt. Hung Ly, battalion operations officer and commander of the team in Thailand.
"We intentionally had the same crew for the deployment and redeployment for continuity," said Ly.
The members of this deployment and distribution support team have worked together on several recent moves, said Aviana Detmongkhonh, distribution management division chief for the unit. Detmongkhonh has worked at the 835th more than four years.
"The people on the DDST vary, based on schedules and who is available; although lately it has worked out that it is the same crew," said Detmongkhonh.
The battalion had also moved the unit's cargo from Okinawa to Thailand in January, and planned to unload the cargo at return to Okinawa after the last voyage, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Watson, 835th Transportation Battalion commander.
"But back on Okinawa we'll have the whole battalion working the move. We'll also be working ports that we are used to, and have Japanese stevedores," Watson said.
During the first day of redeployment Feb. 28, the team had a delay with lifting some mine resistant ambush protected vehicles and a 7-ton extended-bed truck loaded with four generators onto the MV Advantage, a lift-on, lift-off ship with small cranes, two of which had to work simultaneously to pick up the heavier items.
"Delays are normal on lolo [lift-on, lift-off ships], and because of the communications issue at first, and the stevedores were worried about their cable. We resolved the problem by discharging two of the generators on the back of the vehicle," Ly said.
Watson said the team has become accustomed to addressing similar problems while working with different cultures throughout the Far East.
"What I appreciate most is that they have worked through the cultural differences and language barriers. If you don't do that, you know how hard it can be to work through and accomplish anything. Whether it's here, the Philippines, Diego Garcia or even different ports in Okinawa, the team is diverse enough to embrace different cultures, and that makes it easy to do the job. They become embedded in order to lead the whole team," Watson said.
Frank Viray, traffic management specialist with the 599th Transportation Group deployed for Cobra Gold to act as the liaison for Surface Deployment and Distribution Command to the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Thailand. He handled commercial cargo being shipped from Hawaii, New York, and Fort Lewis, Wash.
Viray said the redeployment in general was going smoothly, but during deployment, units were slow in getting their packing lists to the shipper for translation.
"The lessons learned from the deployment were that the documents need time for translation, so they can clear the cargo. We need to get the documents by an earlier date, so if there are issues, we can get back with the unit to correct," Viray said.
However, the cargo did not end up sitting on ships out in the harbor waiting to clear customs.
"It didn't get to that point," Viray said. "Since I came in early, we were able to take care of it before the cargo got here. I got with the units to take care of the paperwork. The advanced party LNOs [liaison officers] came in and met and coordinated to get it done. I'm just glad they had LNOs come in early."
Then, at the redeployment conference, Viray asked the units' representatives to reconfirm the dates to redeploy. Once he had the information, he was able to adjust requirements. During the conference, he let the liaisons know that they had to get their packing lists to the shipper again early so it could be translated.
"The redeployment transition went well with no problems. The Thailand coordination was on the money," said Viray.