By Mr. Johnathon Orrell (SDDC)June 6, 2018
Armed with a stack of note cards and a pen in hand, the senior enlisted leader of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) recently visited Surface Warriors at the Port of Philadelphia to learn what is going right and what he can do to make things better.
Command Sgt. Major Dana Mason Jr. took the opportunity during his visit to learn from the troops on the ground while also instilling in them his confidence in the mission they were conducting and the outstanding work they were achieving.
"Whenever I visit our Surface Warriors at the port or at other training opportunities, it is important to lower their inhibitions and make them feel comfortable," Mason said.
"One of the major things I want Soldiers to get from my visit, it how valuable they are to Team SDDC and how vital they are to mission success," he added.
Whether viewing operations at the port or sitting in briefings with senior non-commissioned officers, Mason was constantly taking notes and thinking of ways he can make the environment better for them.
"I serve as an outlet that allows the subject matter experts to share the good, the bad, and the ugly when it concerns movement operations from the fort to port then port to foxhole," he said.
"It is vital they have the opportunity to share best practices, as well as share their frustrations having to see the same issues multiple times," he added.
But it is more than just gathering information, it is also about what he does with the information he gains during trips like these.
"Once best practices are shared with SDDC headquarters, it is imperative that that our staff captures them with the goal of encapsulating them into the SDDC culture. From the CSM perspective, it is my job to share this information with fellow nominative CSMs so information can be pushed down to the lowest levels," Mason said.
"It is also about asking for assistance," he added.
One of the Soldiers that briefed Mason was Master Sgt. Latina Screen, a transportation supervisor from the 352nd Expeditionary Theater Opening Element (ETOE).
Screen is one of the many U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers that make up SDDC's total force team, and part of the total force team that was making the mission in Philadelphia a success.
Her goal during Mason's visit was to pass along information she gained from the Soldiers on the ground performing the mission, thus allowing him to share those best practices.
"It is important for him to see first-hand how we do our mission. Having the opportunity to pass along information about how communication should flow, how systems should talk to each other and how prior planning before the equipment gets to the port -- which sometimes doesn't happen like it should -- is imperative," Screen said.
She also says it is about making future missions better for all those participating.
"Being able to have him go back to these originating units and pass along best practices and lessons learned from operations will only make future missions smoother and more efficient," she said.
Mason said that is what it is all about -- being able to provide SDDC's customers with the best service possible the right way, the first time.
"From my Surface Warriors' lenses, they are having to participate at that Super Bowl level on a daily basis due to the high volume of moves we support on a yearly basis. We, as an enterprise, are continually looking inward at our processes to ensure we provide the best product possible in support of the Brigade Combat Teams."
"It is also important that I understand the commanders' intent, as well, as his vision for the organization continually morphs as requirements and priorities evolve," he added.
For the mission in Philadelphia -- which is a newer strategic seaport -- Screen said it was about learning the lay of the land.
"It's about learning how we can actually perform at this port and what this port has to offer for the Army," she said.
This is where Mason says SDDC needs to double down on the way we support our commercial partners.
"The Soldiers on the ground play an important role serving as the conduit between the supported unit and our commercial partners -- whom we refer to as our fourth component," he said.
"As equipment transitions from the fort to the port phase of the operation, the Surface Warriors on the ground need to work together with our fourth component partners to ensure a seamless transition of equipment on and off the vessels.
As far as the success of Mason's visit, Screen said it was exactly what she was looking for.
"It feels great knowing we have the senior leadership to be our voice. This is a great opportunity to make change happen -- and change can only make us a better total force team," she said.
Mason seconds that and says his troop visits are all about getting out of the headquarters and into the field.
"Being able to share in the hardship with your folks adds to that level of trust your Soldiers will place in you. In my humble opinion, sitting in your office as the CSM does not get after readiness - it is important to see what truth is on the ground," he said, "and you cannot accomplish that in your office."