FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- A tiny office on post responsible for millions of dollars each year in freight costs found its way into the spotlight last month.

The U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), which is responsible for nearly all Defense Department transportation, singled out the post's Materiel Movement Section with the 2013 Shipper of Merit award for consistently submitting on-time and error-free data.

The Materiel Movement Section, which falls under the Installation Transportation Office of Fort Drum's Logistics Readiness Center, handles more than 1,000 shipments out of the installation each month, "everything from toilet paper to tanks," said John Foresman, an ITO transporter to whom the section reports.

He said it was definitely a team effort, but the award really recognizes the leadership of Donna Bailey, a freight rate technician who supervises the section.

"This award really is a representation of Donna's growth through the years that brought us to this point," Foresman said of the 14-year veteran employee. "She didn't walk in here and just snap her fingers to make it all happen. This has been a really long process that she has championed from the beginning."

The Materiel Movement Section, which is located at the opposite end of the Central Issue Facility warehouse, receives shipment requests, applies correct funding codes and solicits carriers from a list of thousands of trucking companies that have a tender on file with the SDDC.

"They agree to take certain lanes at certain amounts," Bailey said. "We try to find the best rate at the best value.

"We also run a tight ship," she added. "We get the carriers in and out, and they appreciate that."

Freight, which is also shipped off post by rail or air, gets delivered as close as Albany and as far away as Afghanistan.

Bailey's bread and butter are unit moves, which are itemized on a unit deployment list sent to the Materiel Movement Section. Movements of brigade-sized elements include everything from a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation to an Operation Enduring Freedom deployment. Such moves are routed to destinations nationwide as well as in-transit points, such as a port, where they are transferred onto a ship.

Such complicated movements requires an acute attention to detail, especially when ships are ordered based on the dimensions of freight that Bailey data-inputs.

"When you think of everybody down the pipeline from here to our military port in Charleston, S.C., the heights, widths and lengths on these documents are critical," said Foresman, who is responsible for all 10th Mountain Division (LI) deployment transportation operations. "Ship sizes vary. Deck sizes vary. If we report an item (incorrectly), it may not fit.

"So this is where this award comes in," he continued. "The relationship between the data (we input) and what is actually leaving and arriving at the port is (crucial). We've made a large effort in making these documents accurate, which requires Donna's team to be out there doing multiple inspections.

"SDDC pushes to have this data inputted as accurately as possible and as timely as possible."
The SDDC honored a total of 15 government shippers for 2013. "Shipper" refers to any government / vendor office or organization that books and moves cargo through the Defense Transportation System.

The SDDC issued two Shipper of Merit awards while also recognizing 13 of the top performing shippers in DOD under small, medium, large and super large categories.

In addition to the Materiel Movement Section, Foresman oversees the mission responsibilities of the Unit Movement Section and the Departure/Arrival Airfield Control Group (D/AACG) at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.

He emphasized that throughout the in-transit and outbound process, the 10th Mountain Division (LI) -- "our customer" -- is heavily involved as well.

"Having a good working team and the Soldiers' cooperation is crucial to the success of this operation," he said.

In addition to Julie Juell, her lead freight rate assistant, Bailey's team in the Materiel Movement Section includes Adrienne Hancock and Tom Selover, who are responsible for data collection, routing and billing. Her shop also includes inspection and loading team members Roger Ohearn, Curtis Walsh, Thomas Tehonica, Robert Todd and Dave Ellis.

"This really was a team effort, not just here, but all the sections," Bailey said. "I do take pride in what we have done, knowing the importance of (accurate) data with all of this. But it is such a huge operation, and I still say it was a team effort."