SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command personnel assigned to the SDDC Dubai Detachment and 840th Transportation Battalion recently supported the first airlift of Class I cargo via an Air Force C-17 aircraft from Dubai to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.

The combined, joint service operation involved the delivery of more than 45,000 pounds of food and supplies to troops in Afghanistan, and included coordination with numerous agencies, including U.S. Transportation Command; U.S. Central Command; Defense Logistics Agency; U.S. Embassy personnel in Dubai; the U.S. Air Force; and various host nation and commercial partners.

According to SDDC officials, Dubai is a major multimodal point for cargo going into and out of Afghanistan.

"This operation truly shows the capability, versatility and ingenuity of our Defense Transportation System," said Col. David Gaffney, SDDC deputy commander. "I am extremely pleased with the efforts of the 840th Transportation Battalion, as well as the efforts of those in our G3 Operations Directorate to successfully execute this mission. DLA is one of our key customers and our teamwork ensures timely support of the Warfighter."

According to SDDC operators, the March 5 mission was unique in that SDDC--the U.S. Army's surface transportation experts--played a significant role in an air-only proof of principle operation.

"This gives SDDC and USTRANSCOM more flexibility in moving cargo into and out of Afghanistan," explained Leah Cotton, a traffic management specialist assigned to the Hq. SDDC G3 Operations Directorate. She said the directorate's primary responsibility was to ensure communication among the various higher headquarters and SDDC key players, including the 595th Transportation Brigade, 840th Trans. Bn., and the SDDC Dubai Detachment.

"USTRANSCOM determines if there is a mission and a requirement to support, and then it's our job to define and shape that mission," added Michael Jenkins, also a traffic management specialist assigned to the G3 directorate. "This mission proves that if you're able to coordinate and communicate with the right people, you can successfully execute the mission. Everyone who participated in this operation did their job well."

Although the delivery of Class I cargo from Dubai to Afghanistan is normally accomplished by a commercial air carrier under contract with DLA, according to the SDDC transportation experts, as the war draws down, there may come a time when commercial aircraft cannot safely deliver supplies into certain areas of Afghanistan. In preparation for this contingency, USTRANSCOM reached out to its service component commands; in this case, SDDC (U.S. Army) and Air Mobility Command (U.S. Air Force).

For this operation, an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III was tasked to pickup and deliver the Class I cargo. For the Air Force, using C-17 aircraft to deliver cargo is commonplace. However, there are no Air Force mobility personnel in Dubai to palletize and load the cargo according to strict Air Force standards.

That's where the 840th Trans. Bn. and SDDC Dubai Detachment stepped in. Using an existing Stevedoring and Related Terminal Services contract, SDDC works missions in Dubai that involve some form of surface transportation, normally multimodal operations using a combination of commercial ocean carriers and either commercial or military aircraft. In fact, much of the equipment retrograded out of Afghanistan transits through Dubai, under the supervision of the SDDC detachment.

According to Capt. Henry Christian, SDDC Dubai Detachment officer in charge, his unit facilitates the movement of cargo and provides in-transit visibility on all commercial multimodal, door-to-door and port-booked U.S. military cargo transiting through UAE ports of entry and exit.

For this particular mission, detachment and battalion expertise was fully tested.

According to Christian, before the cargo even arrived at the airport, detachment personnel were coordinating custom clearance issues and other details, including arranging for a cold storage facility for the frozen cargo, as well as coordinating the appropriate declaration of hazardous cargo (because of the dry ice used to keep the cargo cold).

Detachment personnel also coordinated for additional cold storage time to give contractors time to build the pallets. Once the cargo arrived at the airport, SDDC personnel in Dubai, including Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jennifer Maloy, a mobility warrant officer from the 840th Trans. Bn., oversaw the palletizing of the frozen cargo. And once the pallets were built to Air Force specifications, they were secured using side and top cargo nets to prevent the cargo from shifting during flight.

"The S&RTS contractor performed most of the operation under the strict supervision of SDDC personnel," Christian explained. The captain said the S&RTS contractor was responsible for transporting the cargo to and from the cold storage facility; building and securing the cargo onto pallets; transporting the cargo to the C-17; and loading the cargo onto the aircraft.

"The success of this mission is a testament to the dedication, professionalism, and host nation partnerships of the Soldiers assigned to the SDDC Dubai Detachment," added the captain. "When all was said and done, this team was responsible for ensuring that Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and DOD Civilians in Afghanistan receive mission essential sustainment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom."