LIVORNO, Italy -- Thanksgiving is a holiday for most Americans, but this year it was another day of work to keep the Army ready as the 839th Transportation Battalion Surface Deployment & Distribution Command (SDDC), Italy Detachment, downloaded a vessel loaded with 398 armored vehicles at the Port of Livorno, Nov. 23-24.

Despite the large number of vehicles, this is easy, routine duty which must go on despite holidays said Battalion Commander Lt. Col. John Hoteck.

"We perform an average of one port operation per month. With the excellent team of experts in the battalion, Italy Detachment, everything goes smooth and seems simpler than it really is," said Hoteck.

Vehicles at the port were downloaded and transferred to a staging area, waiting to be transported to a final destination with 405th Army Field Support Battalion, U.S. Army Africa, located at Leghorn Army Depot. According to Lt. Col. Crystal Hills, 405th commander, logistics is very much a team effort, and 839th is key to making the team successful.

"AFSBn-Africa continuously ships and receives APS (Army prepositioned stock) equipment around the globe in support of Army priorities," said Hills. "The majority of our equipment is received or shipped through the Port of Livorno, and 839th's mission is absolutely vital to our battalion operations. Without 839th's support, we could not be successful.

"As sister battalions in the AMC enterprise, we support each other to ensure the warfighters' success," added Hills.

Part of the downloading operations is contracted. With this particular shipment, contractor drivers took care of positioning the vehicles in the staging area, following 839th Trans Bn. directives.

"It is extremely important to perform a detailed coordination with the contractor drivers to create staging area, which will consequently grant a smooth flow during the loading on trucks phase," said Monica Simoncini, battalion cargo control manager.

The armored vehicles will support the 405th Army Field Support Battalion-Africa mission at Leghorn Army Depot.

"The Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles were refurbished in the United States and sent to Darby for preposition storage at the 405th AFSBn Africa," said Hoteck.

Another significantly important phase of port operations is to check all cargo documents.

"As we download the vehicles and ensure them in the staging area, we also check all the documents against the serial number of each MRAPs to ensure a quick customs clearance," said Simoncini.
The major challenge during each port operation, no matter how complicated, is always safety, said Hoteck.

"Due to the size and weight of these armored vehicles and the tight, congested area inside the vessel, our personnel trains together with the contractors driving the vehicles every time they begin to download the vessel to ensure maximum safety," explained Hoteck.

In 1951, the United States Army established the Livorno Port of Embarkation, initially to meet the shipping needs of United States Forces based in Austria. It began providing support to all United States military services in the Southern European Region in 1955. In 1976, the Military Traffic Management Command, also known as MTMC, assumed the water terminal operations and established the Leghorn Terminal as a subordinate command. SDDC is involved in planning and executing the surface delivery of their equipment and supplies.

In 1997, the terminal was re-designated as 839th Transportation Battalion. The battalion has detachments in Greece, Turkey and Italy, which serve as the single port managers for operations throughout seaports in Southern Europe, the Balkans, the Adriatic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and Northern (and Western) Africa.

"Camp Darby serves as a logistics hub, projecting power by land, sea, and air, in support of coalition forces. This mission is accomplish each day with the support of over 500 host nation partners," said Catherine Miller, deputy garrison manager at Camp Darby.

The importance of Camp Darby as a vital logistics hub to Army readiness is reflected in a major construction project beginning this month that will increase security and rapid deployment.

"The project consists of the construction to relocate the ammunition handling railhead to the Ammunition Storage Area. Work includes a new rail line from the Italian State Railroad mainline through the Leghorn Training Area to the ASA railhead, including right of way, exchange delivery, exchange storage, railhead delivery, support maneuvering, dock, storage track and improvements to the Italian Railway System to accommodate tie-in of the Camp Darby Rail track," said Stephen Donnely, Public Works. "A new rail movable (swing) steel truss type of bridge, rail fixed concrete bridge, dock and railhead railcar pad areas, loading/unloading pad area, associated roads, and blast containment walls/berms are also required.

All construction must meet Department of Defense and Air Force standards, as well as Italian laws.
"As Camp Darby is located in a unique strategic location for rapid movement of equipment via air, rail, boat or even road, it is imperative to improve the security and safety of the movement phase," said Col. Renato Vaira, Italian Base Commander.

According to Vaira, the new construction work will grant major security allowing the download operation inside a secured area in the ASA, avoiding this way truck transportation from the Depot side to the Ammunition Area.

""This railway construction will allow safety increment for both personnel working and but also for the local traffic on the Via Aurelia," said Vaira.