By Sgt. 1st Class Jacob McDonaldOctober 22, 2018
RADICATEL, France - The U.S. Army ended a 50-year hiatus when it used a French port to bring equipment into Europe for the first time since Charles de Gaulle removed France from the NATO Military Committee.
The 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, brought 177 20-foot containers of ammunition through the port at Radicatel, France, Oct. 10-13, for movement to Germany, marking a new beginning half a century in the making.
"In the past several decades we've relied heavily, and often exclusively, on agreements and access in Germany to conduct a large portion of reception, staging, and onward movement of cargo into the theater," said Maj. Aaron Hiatt, operations officer, 838th Transportation Battalion, 598th Transportation Brigade, SDDC. "Operations like this serve as a proof of concept for operating at any number of various ports in France if required to conduct a large-scale deployment in to the (European) theater."
The Army recognized the need to exercise more port options to quickly deploy and assemble units in Europe if the need arises.
"Providing strategic support to large-scale combat operations all begins with sufficient placement and access, that's exactly what operations like our mission at the port of Radicatel accomplish," Hiatt said. "In addition to executing a proof of concept, we've also fortified our relationships with a critical ally on the continent."
Planning for the operation began several years ago with site surveys to assess the port, and continued with coordination between the two countries to work through the legal and logistical obstacles. The mission required cooperation and support from the French National Police or Gendarmerie, Theater Logistics Support Command-Europe, 39th Movement Control Battalion, Military Sealift Command, French Customs authorities and the French commercial railway, among others.
"Once on ground and after meeting the French Teams involved, everyone was motivated and supportive to make this mission a success," said Sidney Theard, detachment director, Benelux Detachment, 838th Trans. Battalion. He said the effort wouldn't have been successful without the various teams working together to adapt to changing requirements, complete processes and meet train schedules.
"As SDDC was only responsible for managing port operations the 21st TSC, 39th MCB and their subordinate mission command elements made all onward movement operations smooth by ensuring all theater sustainment was synched with our operations," Theard added. "Teamwork and communication was key."
Hiatt expressed his appreciation for the French support and enthusiasm as well.
"The Gendarmerie were great and wanted to exchange patches with us," Hiatt said. "The SNCF (French Commercial Rail Company) actually sent about 10 of their employees and management from Paris to the port for two days to witness this historic operation. Overall, they were very eager and willing to accommodate our requirements to ensure the success of the (ammunition shipment)."
The complete ammunition shipment, consisting of more than 570 containers, will be brought through various ports throughout the region.