When it comes to moving military cargo, gear and equipment around North America, the Department of Defense calls in the experts. It calls the 597th Transportation Brigade.
The Brigade has transportation specialists based at Fort Eustis, Va., Charleston, S.C. and Beaumont, Texas, along with smaller detachments in Anchorage, Alaska and Seattle, Wash.
Together, they move military cargo by land and sea to destinations throughout the world.
The Alaska and Washington units make up the Pacific Northwest Detachment and are managed by Beaumont's 842nd Transportation Battalion.
Although smaller in size than the battalions, the two detachments are responsible for nine western states. Also making them unique is that they are responsible for the movement of ammunition shipments in their areas of responsibility, unlike the battalions.
Alaska is one of the most important strategic nodes in North America for the DoD.
The SDDC Alaska Team is responsible for two vehicle processing centers which serves all DoD personnel stationed in Alaska and is home to one of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's 18 strategic seaports, the Port of Anchorage and two alternate seaports, The Port of Valdez and the Port of Seward.
But there is an additional distinction that sets the Alaska unit apart from all others…the man who runs it.
He is literally an Army of one.
William "Bill" Plummer, Marine Cargo Specialist for Pacific Northwest-Alaska, is solely responsible for the movement of all rail and sea movement for military cargo, vehicles and equipment in the state.
"I handle the coordination for movement of equipment for all five branches of the military into and out of Alaska, said Plummer." In FY 2015, that included 172 southbound vessels carrying 2,370 pieces of cargo. This is no small feat considering Plummer is doing the work of four people.
The detachment is normally staffed with three additional hands, but has been short on manpower for the past two years after two employees moved to other jobs. The third left seven months ago leaving Plummer the sole survivor and leader of his one man band. All southbound manifesting has been kept up to date by the Transportation Specialists at PNW-D, Seattle, Wash.
Adding to the challenge, not only is Plummer responsible for coordinating the movement of all Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard vehicles, cargo and ammunition, the five installations he supports are spread across Alaska's rugged 663,000 square mile expanse.
Despite the challenges, Plummer, a retired Army veteran with over 30 years of transportation experience, prides himself on his perseverance.
"Believe it or not, the hardest part of the job is not the work, it's Mother Nature," Plummer said. "Besides the cold and snow, when the 31-foot waves start rolling into the Port of Anchorage, I have to find workarounds to keep things moving."
Plummer is currently at Fort Eustis, Va. attending a course taught by the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and U.S. Transportation Command to learn ordering and contracting functions which he will soon add to his repertoire.
When asked what happens when he's on vacation, attending training or otherwise unable to make it in to work, he replied "Everything stops. It will be there when I get back."
Last year, the SDDC Alaska Team and Pacific Northwest Detachment manifested a total of 5,828 pieces both northbound and southbound on 393 vessels, monitored the movement of 6,055 privately owned vehicles import and export at the VPCs, deployed two Army brigades to Army training centers, conducted two ammunition resupply operations, and coordinated the deployment and redeployment of Pacific Pathways 16-03.