By Sgt. Bethany HuffMarch 23, 2017
SHUAIBA PORT, Kuwait - Fighting a wind storm and other weather delays, a ship, the sixth of its kind in the U.S. Navy, comes to port for one very important mission; moving equipment for units within theater.
The large, medium speed, roll on roll off, vehicle cargo ship USNS Brittin (T-AKR-305) pushes into the pier of the Shuaiba Port in Kuwait as Soldiers from the 936th Expeditionary Terminal Operating Element, get ready to unload and reload military equipment on to the ship, March 12-15.
This is the first time the ETOE performed in this capacity since standing up in September 2015.
"We're the new ETOE (who will) set the standards for future ETOEs that will come," said Capt. Gregory Larague, the 936th ETOE commander as his team performs contingency operations and vessel operations.
This mission is two-fold, one to equip units in theater and then validating the Soldiers of the 936th ETOE. The validation requires Soldiers to accurately and proficiently unload approximately 700 pieces of cargo, and reloading approximately 500 pieces of military equipment.
"This is an important job for us, not only because we're being validated, but we are also helping a unit come into theater prepared, and helping another unit go home," said Spc. Christian Stearly, a cargo specialist with the 936th ETOE.
While this mission is considered a validation for the ETOE, the Soldiers are more focused on their part of this multi-faceted process.
"We've learned a lot in a short period of time, and we're excited to see this plan come to life that our Soldiers had a hand in," said Yoder. "It's one thing to see this on paper, it's another to see it executed in real time."
Going from a plan on paper to real life is something that the Soldiers are particularly invested in.
"Most people don't know how the ships are loaded and unloaded," said Stearly, an Atlanta, Georgia native. "There is a lot of coordination between the vessel, the ETOE and the units whose equipment we're downloading and uploading.
The vessel has the capacity to carry up to 1,500 pieces of equipment and go all over the world with various types of cargo. For this particular mission, the USNS Brittin carried equipment such as armored tracked vehicles, cargo trucks, ground equipment and Humvees.
With so many moving pieces, a number of challenges can arise such as poor weather or equipment failing. However the ETOE team is more than ready to tackle them.
"We adjust our plans as needed," said Capt. Jesse Yoder, the operations officer for the 936th ETOE. "For example we have to plan for inoperable equipment, we can't rely on those pieces being fully operational due to the length they were out to sea on the ship."
The ETOE team is using their lessons learned and process to develop a play book for the ETOEs that follow in their footsteps.
"We're learning how to clearly perform terminal operations, and we're creating a living playbook to hand off to our replacements, so they can execute the mission flawlessly," said Yoder, a Buford, Georgia native.
While the unit is thinking about those coming after them, the unit itself is excited to be a part of history.
"We're excited, to be a part of this unit as the first of its kind, doing this type of mission," Yoder said, who went on to say how cool it is for him to serve his country in this capacity.