By Donna KlapakisMay 23, 2017
YOKOHAMA NORTH DOCK, Japan -- A small transportation battalion on the edge of Yokohama has been moving military and sustainment cargo into and out of Japan since 1946.
"The 836th Transportation Battalion is responsible for all port operation and strategic moves into and out of Japan less Okinawa," said Lt. Col. Clydea Prichard-Brown, 836th Trans. Bn. commander.
"At the 836th Transportation Battalion, we are not only the SDDC representative, we also have a direct relationship with the Japanese community because we are the senior Army unit at Yokohama North Dock, and we are the ambassadors within the city of Yokohama," Prichard-Brown said. "With that, our direct ties within the community allow us to promote SDDC's mission and get support from local nationals in the community."
Sgt. Maj. Lonnie Gabriel has been the 836th senior military advisor for eight months.
"I enjoy the battalion because of our bilateral partnership with our Japanese counterparts," he said. "What is unique about the battalion is that strategically, we are worldwide. We are small but powerful, and we punch above our weight class"
"The difference in being here at the 836th is that I've learned that civilians play a very important role in the logistics community. They hold the continuity together. As our U.S. Soldiers come and go, the civilians have been with SDDC for 15-20 years or longer. Whereas the U.S. Soldiers can go one to two layers deep into a mission, a civilian can go six layers deep. By that I mean they know the mission. They cannot only tell why the mission is happening then but also how it has gone in the past.
"They know the history of vessels. When we might think there might be a delay, civilians will know, because they know a particular vessel."
Robert Meno, the cargo documentation section chief for the 836th came to the battalion in September 2014. However, he has worked for Surface Deployment and Distribution Command for 30 years and has worked in transportation for more than 50 years.
"Working at the detachment level and being chief, you are the commander, sergeant major and everything else," Meno said. "The battalion level is a step up. It is different because when I first got here, they hadn't hired a terminal chief, so I was the chief for terminals and CDS at the same time.
"Working for the 836th has always been great," he added. This is the most employees I've had since I have been working for SDDC. I have a total of 12 people here, but all have been master labor contractors. Now we have a DAC. I had all DACs in Guam and Alaska. All the MLCs are very dedicated employees. They are very respectful and everything is on time. They are very reliable."
"Here the preponderance of staff is local nationals and civilians," said Maj. Jeffrey Hance, 836th executive officer. "Right now we have six military, 16 Department of Army civilians, and 26 master labor contractors.
"I enjoy working here," he added. "I like the challenge of synchronizing not only the military, not only the DACs, but also the Japanese MLCs. For example Mr. Suzuki has been here 27 years. People like him know everything that has happened here and all of the lessons learned. Military are only here for three years, and the civilians can only stay for a maximum of five."
Gus Espree, battalion administrative officer, said he enjoys working at the 836th.
"This is a dream job for me," he said. "Even before I retired I dreamed of being able to work here. Working alongside the Japanese nationals is what makes the work unique. Have to have a balance. If you take care of your people first they will do you well."
"Our Japanese national workforce just gives us everything, and they don't expect anything from us beyond their paychecks," said Prichard-Brown. "They are awesome professionals who are the experts at what they do. They have done it for years. They are family. Just having them in the unit makes us so successful in the community because they are our ambassadors for Japan working with SDDC."