By Donna KlapakisMay 23, 2017
BUSAN, Republic of Korea -- Anyone who is familiar with military history knows Busan Port was key to the turning point in the Korean War.
The 837th Transportation Battalion at Busan maintains the most active port for incoming U.S. unit cargo shipments on the peninsula.
Lt. Col. George Crockatt commands the battalion.
"For Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in the Pacific, we have the smallest footprint of any battalion," Crockatt said of the unit's headquarters at Pier 8. "But freedom's frontier is right here. We potentially have the largest mission."
The battalion works closely with neighbors and allies, the Republic of Korea Port Operations Group.
"More so now than before, we share a lot with the ROK Port Operations Group," Crockatt said. "We say Pier 8, but Pier 8 is both the ROK and U.S. We couldn't do it without the coordination with our ROK Port Operations Group allies.
"We are kind of like the Air Force at Osan in that we share ports. Most times we work autonomously, but sometimes we share missions."
Although the battalion's physical footprint is small, it is the largest of the 599th Transportation Brigade's three battalions in terms of personnel.
"We have more people here so we can fill two operations at the same time," said Ron Barrer, 837th deputy chief of operations. "Size-wise, we are the biggest.
"We also have to travel distances to get to our ports within Korea, where in Guam, we had two little ports just down the road. Operations-wise it is just a bigger scale. We also have to coordinate with more units to get the job done. Twenty-fifth Transportation Battalion does the trucking and 6th Ordnance Battalion does the ammo inspections."
The personnel who make up the 837th also distinguish it from other battalions.
"The experience of the Korean nationals in terminal operations is what sets the battalion apart from others in the brigade or throughout SDDC," said Bill Plummer, marine cargo specialist. "The majority have been here for 25 years, with some here for more than 30.
"Here the Korean nationals are the constant," Plummer continued. "They are our biggest selling points. They are helpful, respectful and very dedicated."
"The 837th has fantastic teamwork up and down and left and right," said marine cargo specialist Koh, Woon. "Even the local nationals are very powerful. I never saw that in the Marine Corps.
"This provides stability and is a good way to work," she added. "In the Marine Corps we had a skeleton crew and the time in country was 9-12 months, so everything stops if a person rotates, and there is no continuity."
The battalion also cooperates with other entities.
"The commander has helped to build relationships with our fellow units, and that makes it easy to know who to talk to get things done," said Maj. Ron Hall, battalion executive officer. "That way, when we have exercises, we've already worked together."
"We work with the Army, Air Force, and Navy here at Pier 8," said Sgt. Maj. LaVaughn Brown, 837th senior enlisted advisor. "We have quarterly tenant meetings and a weekly NCOIC stand up. We also work closely daily to make sure everyone is tracking what we are doing. We have an outstanding relationship with all of the units here. Very user friendly. They always offer a helping hand and we do the same. We share the same footprint."
"We are a U.S. Transportation Command team with Military Sealift Command here at the pier," Crockatt said. "When DVs come, we work to try to do command briefs at the same time in the Combined Seaport Operations Center."
"This is a robust workforce and I am impressed with everybody's contribution to the mission," said Sgt. Maj. LaVaughn Brown, 837th senior enlisted advisor. "It is not a heavy lift when we rely on and help one another."
"If I could do anything more, I'd tie in more of our reserve counterparts," Brown added. "That will help us with 'fight tonight' and Maj. Gen. [Kurt] Ryan's R.E.A.D.Y. campaign. We'll continue to increase our Total Force Integration relationship."