SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.--Effective communication between the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and its commercial and industry partners is critical to the command's ability to move, deploy and sustain the joint force.

"Our commercial carriers contribute approximately 88% of continental U.S. land transport and 80% of global sealift for the U.S. Transportation Command's global mobility capability," said Maj. Gen. Stephen E. Farmen, SDDC commanding general.

SDDC's communication with its industry partners was stove-piped through various directorates within the command, explained Farmen. "We were missing an exclusive resource to make it seamless for our commercial and industry partners to communicate with SDDC on a day-to-day basis."

To fill this gap, SDDC leadership established a new business and industry liaison position to better streamline commercial and industry communication and hired Cheryl Freeman in December 2018 to fill the role.

As SDDC's business and industry liaison, or ombudswoman, Freeman provides industry and commercial partners -- often referred to as USTRANSCOM's Fourth Component -- with a single facilitation source for commercial and industry partner that work with, or are interested in working with SDDC, simplifying the process.

Prior to being named the ombudswoman, Freeman worked for SDDC in operations as a transporter for over 10 years, at both the tactical and strategic levels.

"In my roles at SDDC, I've had connections with our industry partners. So this position has been beneficial and also built upon the networks and responsibilities I've held while working in the operations directorate," said Freeman.

In addition to interacting with industry partners, Freeman's other duties include serving as the liaison for the command group, participating in meetings with senior industry executives, ensuring brigades and battalions are aligned with industry engagements, and attending conferences to support the SDDC mission.

"Freeman's role is a crucial element for our organization," said Farmen. "The role of the ombudswoman is a consolidated position that simplifies the communication processes and improves our best business practices."

Freeman recently participated in the 2019 National Defense Transportation Association-U.S. Transportation Command Fall Meeting held in St. Louis. The meeting offered a close look at the relationships between the industry and government to ensure the success of the warfighter and the nation's logistics enterprise.

While there, Freeman was able to voice her new position to various partners across the DOD enterprise.

"One aspect of my position is to continue to strengthen our business and industry partnerships within SDDC." She continued, "The fall meeting was an excellent opportunity to listen and respond to any concerns with industry and remind them of my position and how it benefits us both. I was also able to express the value they play in our mission success."

According to Freeman, the industry observations from the fall meeting were well-received.

"The industry feedback has been exceptionally positive. I'm looking forward to building upon the great momentum we have with our industry teammates," she said. "The wheels are moving in the right direction both in and outside of SDDC."

Farmen said the strong and lasting relationships, partnerships and friendships built with Fourth Component partners are an indispensable element of SDDC's success.

"Our industry and commercial partners are vital to our mission success," Farmen said. "But they are more than just our partners, they are critical members of the SDDC team, bringing expertise, capabilities and professionalism. They are integral to our ability to move, deploy and sustain the Armed Forces to deliver readiness and lethality at speed."