CONSTANTA, Romania -- The end of a variety of summer exercises across the European theater is the beginning of a long journey for Soldiers and equipment from overseas to stateside. Through careful planning, attention to detail and skillful execution, movement control teams make it possible to move thousands of pieces of equipment back to the United States.
At the break of dawn on August 2, 2019, the 152nd MCT, alongside Romanian civilian contractors, prepared and loaded a total of 1,297 vehicles and pieces of equipment onto the vehicle carrier vessel ARC Endurance at the Port of Constanta, Romania.
The 152nd, augmented by the 624th MCT, has been working for over a month to prepare multiple units' equipment to make the 11-day journey back home.
Transportation battalions and the MCTs work together to coordinate the receipt, movement and tracking of equipment. The primary role of an MCT is to coordinate the transportation of equipment and keep accountability of the assets at all times.
"Ensuring that the right equipment is in the right place, to go on the right vessel, to get to the right destination is very difficult at times," said Maj. Benjamin Birtles, executive officer for the 839th Transportation Battalion. "But this is an integral part of being able to deploy our force and be able to do so rapidly and accurately."
Early on in the planning process, the participating units identify what equipment they need to support an exercise or mission, and the transportation battalion coordinates the acquisition of the gear. After the conclusion of the exercises, it is the job of the MCTs and parent transportation battalions to work together to get the equipment back state-side.
Preparing this amount of equipment for shipment is a multi-step process. The first step is to "bioclean" all of the equipment. Biocleanings, also called agricultural washes, are essential to ensure that no foreign contaminants make their way back to the United States and occur any time vehicles and equipment leave and return to the U.S. This is a
time consuming task, with each vehicle taking around 32 to 48 hours to clean and get ready for customs inspections.
After the vehicles go through the biocleaning process, they are inspected by customs officials. Robert Walters, Customs Executive Agency, U.S. Army Europe Headquarters, said that preventing any foreign vegetation, pests or possible contaminants from crossing borders prevents potential illnesses or agricultural disturbances.
"We inspect the vehicles top to bottom, front to back, every nook, every cranny gets checked for dirt and vegetation," Walters said. "Our goal is to prevent any invasive species and agricultural contaminants from entering the U.S." After the inspection, the vehicles are taken to a "sanitation lot," a section of land that is cleaned prior to staging the vehicles for shipment. This ensures that the vehicles remain in their "ready to ship" conditions until it is time to be loaded onto the vessel.
Birtles said loading the vessel takes a lot of considerations and careful planning.
"We manage where each thing is placed in conjunction with the chief mate or first mate of the vessel," said Birtles. "It's very important that we measure down to the inch how many pieces will fit on each deck. We'll place things as tightly as possible and as carefully as possible with an eye on safety."
As the vehicle loading operation was underway, Capt. Tyler Cline, 839th Transportation Battalion, said he looks forward to the next port operation.
"Nothing happens until something moves, that's the Transportation Corps," Cline said. "It's our job, and we are happy to do it. We are happy to be here and keep the never ending flow of equipment going. From here we will move right on to helping the Soldiers and equipment of Agile Spirit get home."