Joint Task Force-Port Opening elements train to provide rapid deployment options
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WRIGHT ARMY AIRFIELD, Georgia - The introduction of the 2018 National Defense Strategy summary begins with "The Department of Defense's enduring mission is to provide combat-credible military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of our nation." Joint Task Force--Port Opening elements are a vital resource that provides senior leaders with options to meet that mission by delivering readiness to the warfighter at a moment's notice.

Members of a Joint Task Force-Port Opening element participated in United States Transportation Command's Turbo Distribution 20-1 exercise at Wright Army Airfield near Fort Stewart, Georgia. The team trained on providing initial port and distribution capabilities, including tracking distributing cargo based on priority of need.

"First and foremost, the JTF-PO provides options to senior leaders. It supports rapid deployment of immediate and contingency response forces anytime and anywhere," said U.S. Air Force Col. Gregory Cyrus, the JTF-PO commander.

"The JTF-PO brings two services and one defense agency together to form a non-standard joint task force," said Cyrus.

This joint expeditionary team was made up of the Air Force Air Mobility Command's 621st Contingency Response Wing, the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element from the Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and the Defense Logistics Agency.

JTF-POs exist to rapidly open and establish ports of debarkation and initial distribution networks for joint distribution operations supporting humanitarian, disaster relief, and contingency operations with a 12-hour response time that fits the NDS.

"At the same time, the way that we employ, we're able to increase operational unpredictability, thereby increasing our ability to compete below the level of armed conflict," said Cyrus.

The defense objective of sustaining Joint Force military advantage, both globally and in key regions, is the JTF-PO's bread and butter.

"The joint task force has the capability to help maintain our military advantage. The National Defense Strategy states that our competitive military advantage has been eroding in the peer fight, however the JTF-PO is in position to support the full spectrum of military operations, from defense support to civil authorities all the way to near-peer, full-on force competitor fight," said Cyrus.

Cyrus noted that it takes practice to be a force multiplier and hone interoperability.

"Training like this increases the readiness of all our units, which in turn improves joint force lethality. Furthermore, exercises like TD 20-1 provide all assigned JTF-PO units the opportunity to train like we're going to employ," he said.

This training provides the units' senior leaders the opportunity to teach inexperienced personnel how joint operations work, creating an understanding of operations at the lowest level.

"There is a high probability we are going to see some of these scenarios that we exercise here in the real world," added Cyrus. "Without this training, we lose joint integration and experience and situational awareness on what each other's strengths and limitations are."

The end-state of the training is to make available to the geographic combatant commands a ready and able force to open an airfield or seaport and then take all that capability that is delivered through the ports of debarkation to a forward node or to the end-user.

"The training ensures that we always have a force ready to deploy in our directed sequence for any request for forces or for any requirements sent down by a geographic combatant command," said U.S. Air Force Col. Kyle Benwitz, team chief for the observer-trainer team for Turbo Distribution 20-1.

"With that in mind, the importance of training JTF-PO falls on USTRANSCOM. With the training aspect of JTF-PO, by best understanding it, we are then able to communicate its capability by demonstrating it and also by maintaining our own readiness posture as we work to fulfill all National Defense Strategy and all other requirements for the capability," he added.