The 842nd Transportation Battalion, 597th Transportation Brigade, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is currently supporting DEFENDER-Europe 20 operations by deploying 17 units' equipment through two of its Gulf Coast ports, the Port of Beaumont and the Port of Port Arthur.
DEFENDER-Europe 20 is the first in a series of exercises the U.S. Army has planned in Europe and the Pacific over the next five years. Twenty thousand U.S. service members and their equipment will deploy from the U.S. to Europe as part of the largest deployment of U.S. forces to Europe for an exercise in more than 25 years.
"We are deploying two ABCTs simultaneously as well as a host of enablers that will be assisting in this operation over there," said Capt. Jennifer Meier, 842nd Transportation Battalion operations officer.
To get the armored brigade combat teams to Europe, the 842d personnel will process around 6,000 pieces over a three-month period.
"Our unit is small in size and the strategic impact is significant, said Lt. Col. Gordon Vincent," 842nd Transportation Battalion commander. "A brigade combat team typically has around 3,000 pieces of cargo, and we're moving what equates to almost two entire brigade combat teams across two ports".
The 842nd doesn't do it alone. They need the support of their commercial partners.
"We currently have almost 250 long-shore men and stevedores who are working simultaneous vessel operations, and the Port of Beaumont has been a tremendous partner by giving us the space in order to absorb this amount of cargo, the rail capacity that we consumed and our commercial ocean carriers are all critical to our ability to be able to do this," said Vincent. "Our commercial partners are how we execute our mission. Quite honestly, if it weren't for them, we wouldn't be able to execute at the speed at which we do and at the capacity that they bring to this both in the human capital and also from the ships themselves."
The Deployment Support Command brings a highly-trained-ready-Reserve transportation capability to the mission that can be rapidly integrated into operations across the Gulf of Mexico.
"We're a unique unit. We have 6 active-duty Soldiers as well as 25 DA civilians and are augmented by approximately 27 Reserve Soldiers who are on active orders for one year," said Meier. "They enable us to extend our outreach to the four ports we operate out of, should we have to conduct operations simultaneously at all the ports."
In addition to building relationship and teamwork amongst the Total-Force team, the exercise is giving the Soldiers an opportunity to prepare and practice for large-scale operations in advance of a crisis.
DEFENDER-Europe 20 is exercising the U.S. military's ability to strategically project force and set the theater by mobilizing and deploying forces, sustaining them in a crisis and redeploying them when their mission is complete.
"For an Armored brigade combat team, it's an essential part of our training," said Maj. Maximillian Renard, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division port officer in charge. "Understanding how we move our equipment, which is a significant, from our home station motor pools to all the way through the ports and on board to our forward operating sites. We don't get to do that every day."
Part of the preparation and training for the 842nd and the units they move is building relationships and codifying processes.
"When you're bringing limited pieces, you don't realize how much work actually goes into moving your entire MTOE from fort to port, port to port, port to rail, then rail to training site," said 1st Lt. Edward Nickman,1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division's maintenance officer and unit movement officer. "It takes a lot of people and other organizations."
The unit's modification table of organization and equipment, commonly referred to as the MTOE, is everything a unit needs to operate in a specific area of operation.
The 2/1 AD is moving more than 2,600 pieces of equipment from Fort Bliss, Texas to the European theater for the exercise. Their Soldiers, with some help from the Total-Force 842nd team, are responsible for tracking and moving their own equipment to the port.
"It's very important from our perspective to make sure we help this unit get their power-projection platform over to Europe as quickly and efficiently as possible," said Meier.
The 842nd supports the deploying units through reception and accounting of cargo, preparing stow plans and managing upload of cargo at the ships through force packages in���� cooperation with their commercial partners.
"All four of the strategic ports that our battalion supports generate a tremendous amount of combat power," said Vincent. "DEFENDER-Europe 20 allows us to demonstrate our ability to generate combat power across the strategic port network. It also allows a demonstration of our connective tissue from the power projection platform to the strategic port then the synchronization for onward movement on the other end to complete mission requirements."