U.S. Transportation Command is continually working to improve the capabilities of global transportation systems on behalf of the Department of Defense (DOD) and Fort McCoy is one of the first installations to be a part of that effort with the testing of the Transportation Management System (TMS) prototype.
The command, also called USTRANSCOM, is responsible for conducting globally integrated mobility operations, leading the broader Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise, and providing enabling capabilities in order to project and sustain the joint force in support of national objectives.
USTRANSCOM selected Fort McCoy to try out the TMS prototype while selected cargo was deployed to the post for the 86th Training Division's Combat Support Training Exercise 86-19-03.
According to USTRANSCOM, the TMS prototype is being tested in order to determine if a commercial-off-the-shelf transportation management system can support the system requirements needed to conduct global transportation for the DOD.
"We're testing a software suite that may provide us integrated transportation capabilities," said Kathryn Miller, organizational change management training lead for the TMS Prototype Core Team. "Right now, we coordinate a complex system of transportation nodes that includes aerial and seaports, distribution hubs, and staging bases. There is currently no single system that links these nodes. We often hear that our current portfolio is cumbersome. We're seeking a more modern, integrated solution to link the platforms that project combat power. Ultimately, we want the end-user to be able to track cargo in an end-to-end system, so when cargo moves from ground to ship to air, we don't lose visibility.
"We have been in this TMS prototype since March 2018 -- it's a two-year prototype," Miller said. "And, fortunately, the Army volunteered to participate in our prototype at Fort McCoy."
For the Fort McCoy system trial, the TMS Prototype Core Team partnered with the Army's G-43, which integrates strategic Army logistics functions in support of DOD planning guidance and the national military strategy to sustain Army forces supporting global combatant commanders. The core team also coordinated with Fort McCoy's Logistics Readiness Center (LRC) Transportation Division.
"We completed training with Fort McCoy personnel in June to prepare for the cargo movement using the system," Miller said.
Three Army units were designated to have cargo deployed and redeployed using the TMS prototype as they prepared for CSTX. These units included the 256th Combat Support Hospital of Twinsburg, Ohio; 454th Transportation Company of Columbus, Ohio; and the 367th Engineer Company of St. Joseph, Minn. All the units had cargo successfully moved in early July.
Installation Transportation Officer D.J. Eckland and Freight Management Specialist Dean Muller, both with the LRC, have been key players in Fort McCoy's involvement with the TMS prototype.
Overall, six people from Fort McCoy have received training on the system, and Eckland helped develop the blueprints for the system.
"So, before the training took place at Fort McCoy, I (previously) spent 12 weeks at Scott Air Force Base (Ill.) …with the USTRANSCOM TMS Prototype Core Team and the other service components doing the blueprinting process for the prototype," said Eckland, who worked to have Fort McCoy and the Army be a part of the process from the start. "When you look at logistics systems that the DOD fields, a lot of times they don't take into consideration the needs of the reserve component or how they do business. So by putting Fort McCoy out front and bringing the Army Reserve with us, that allowed us to put the Army Reserve at the forefront and get the processes that they use embedded into the system at the start. So, we can say we had our say in this, and it's not just a system with a bunch of processes that somebody else came up with that we're trying to make it work for ourselves."
Throughout DOD, multiple transportation systems are used, and many don't communicate effectively with each other. Muller said the TMS prototype creates a possible "one-stop shop" where everyone can communicate in one system and improve capabilities throughout.
"I'm very excited to be at the spearhead of this thing because we do have that opportunity to identify the reserve components," Muller said. "There's a lot of folks who don't understand the differences between the active and reserve components. This is our opportunity to make those adjustments right at the beginning and have people consider them as we continue to the prototype, and if we go into production as well."
One of the biggest advantages in the TMS is its capability for in-transit visibility.
"The in-transit visibility of cargo is going to be huge," Muller said. "And not only huge for us to see within our domestic trucks … but also if a unit is deploying, it has the ability to see it on rail or on a ship. All the transportation methods should be highly visible within TMS as this progresses."
Eckland, who has been fulfilling transportation needs for the Army and DOD for many years, said the prototype has the capability to change everything in the DOD transportation community.
"This is a great thing for the DOD," Eckland said. "It's one system for all. We won't be swivel chairing between systems, and it will increase visibility and lower costs."
The TMS Core Team is continually making adjustments and improvements with the prototype as work continues.
"The TMS initiative is energizing cultural and technological change within the Joint Deployment Distribution Enterprise," Eckland said.
Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.
The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy."