By Command Sgt. Maj. George Duncan, 8th Theater Sustainment CommandSeptember 29, 2008
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Take 2,500 service members, 1,500 pieces of rolling stock and shipping containers, throw in fair winds and following seas and pending deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and what do you get' The largest beach landing since Inchon in 1950, and a dynamic joint training opportunity for Army noncommissioned officers.
Soldiers, NCOs and Officers from the 8th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) headquarters led Joint Logistics Over The Shore (JLOTS) 2008, Exercise Pacific Strike, June 1 to Aug. 1. The exercise began when the Naval transport vessel USNS Pililaau docked in Hawaii on July 12. There, Soldiers from the 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th TSC, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division loaded their equipment for transport to Camp Pendleton where it would be downloaded in-stream to the beaches of Camp Pendleton, where later all of it would be driven to Fort Irwin, Calif., for a mission rehearsal exercise prior to their deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Exercise Pacific Strike served a dual purpose - prepare Hawaii-based units for their upcoming real-world deployments and strengthen the skills of Soldiers and Sailors to work together to support wartime or humanitarian missions.
"The biggest benefit to me is to see what they (Sailors) bring to the fight," said Sgt. Maj. Kent Mace, Joint Task Force 8 Command Sgt. Maj. "The professionalism of all NCOs contributed to the success of the JLOTS exercise."
JLOTS is a joint exercise between the Army and the Navy, designed to strengthen the interoperability between the services so that they can quickly build an improvised port when one has been destroyed or is nonexistent, due to natural disasters or the effects of war. The Soldiers and Sailors can then get personnel, supplies, and equipment from sea to shore to support the timely missions.
JLOTS reflects what would happen in a real-world contingency. No matter how much strategic airlift is available, most of the support equipment must be shipped to the battlefield by sea.
Mace, a munitions NCO by trade, shared the duty of JTF-8 Command Sgt. Maj. with Sgt. Maj. Jaime Barraza, who led the NCOs early on in the first phases of Pacific Strike.
"It was amazing to me to see the amount of moving pieces that we had, and how safe the operation was," Barraza said. "My role as Task Force Command Sergeant Major was to ensure all service members were taken care of, and that no matter how busy things got, that we accomplished every mission safely."
From the beginning of Exercise Pacific Strike, the action was nearly non-stop. Soldiers with the 331st Transportation Company from Fort Eustis, Va., built an Army "Trident Pier" on Red Beach at Camp Pendleton, which serves as a medium to transport equipment from the USNS Pililaau via landing craft to the shore. Navy Seabees worked to erect an Elevated Causeway System (ELCAS), a mobile pier system that can be built in a matter of days. The ELCAS is equipped with cranes that lift shipping containers from pieces of the Improved Navy Lighterage System, a series of floating causeways, for transfer to the shore.
Navy Seabees, with Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, Naval Beach Group 1 of Coronado, Calif., built the sprawling tent city that housed nearly 3,000 service members and civilians at the peak of the exercise. Mace and Barazza worked hand-in-hand with Navy Command Master Chief Damon Anthony, who deftly handled all life support issues at the tent city as a joint team.
The multi-faceted system that moves the equipment from ship to shore required a great deal of complex integration between the Army and the Navy.
"It was a very successful integration," said Brig. Gen. Mark MacCarley, deputy commander of JTF-8, "and that's because every single Soldier, active and Reserve, [and] every single Sailor was fully engaged, committed to making this exercise a success, and it will be an enduring legacy for the United States armed forces."
"It was a challenging event," Barraza said. "My biggest lesson learned was to get involved in the planning phases early to make sure we get an open line of communication with the other services. Once we understood each other's capabilities, the exercise went smoothly."
Master Sgt. Michael Frost, the Operations Sgt. Maj. for JTF-8, ran the JLOTS Joint Operations Center. Frost's background as a Mobile Training Team chief supporting Operation Enduring Freedom prepared him for joint operations, but he was pleasantly surprised at the close working relationship with the Sailors.
"In Afghanistan, I was part of many joint missions where it was tough to get one side to give in and we butted heads with the other services," Frost said. "The most unique part of this exercise was that active duty Army, Army Reservists, and Navy NCOs held key positions and because of their experience, everything just clicked."
Army noncommissioned officers played major roles in many portions of the exercise, from protocol and the Joint Visitors Bureau, to in processing thousands of personnel through the Joint Reception Center (JRC), and truly represented the success of the exercise.
"We had a very efficient group of Soldiers at tent city who ran the JRC 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in and out processing personnel," said Sgt. 1st Class Traci Gillispie, JRC NCOIC. "At the headquarters we also processed more than 300 Army awards for Navy personnel, and more than a thousand certificates for JLOTS participants. I'm proud of my team for getting the job done."
Gillispie stated that she arrived at Camp Pendleton with basic information about her mission and left with a new appreciation for joint training and all that it entails.
"Knowing what I know now, I'll put together an information book or standard operating procedures to help out the JRC staff in future JLOTS exercises," she said.
Frost echoed that comment, saying that his experience running the JOC involved a huge learning curve and that working side-by-side with Sailors led to many unforeseen challenges.
"Something as small as using unfamiliar acronyms threw us for a loop at first, but we created acronym sheets and worked through our reporting processes," he said. "My advice to anyone going into a joint operation is to learn everything you can about your counterparts; ranks, rates, acronyms, and basically how they do business. The reason Pacific Strike was so successful was the professionalism of Navy and Army noncommissioned officers."