POTI, Georgia – From Germany to Georgia, unloading equipment for a tactical road march to begin a unit’s major exercise requires a team committed to making the mission possible.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Alex McCurry and Capt. Meghan Taitano, assigned to the 4th Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, served as leads of the regiment’s port operations team during Noble Partner 20, getting the unit’s equipment from Poti, Georgia, to the Vaziani Training Area in Georgia.
Exercise Noble Partner is designed to enhance regional partnerships and increase U.S. force readiness and interoperability in a realistic, multinational training environment. The exercise allows participants to conduct situational training exercises, live-fire exercises and combined mechanized maneuvers.
While unloading a vessel can typically take up to 24 hours, the planning stages began as early as April for McCurry, an armor officer with the squadron’s supply section.
“There’s an administrative stage of it and a deployment stage of it,” said McCurry. “We deployed our equipment via a rail vessel, road march and line haul. Each mode of transportation required different information and due dates, which added to the difficulty of deploying a unit.”
Working with McCurry, Taitano, a logistics officer and commander of Forward Support Troop, 4th Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, describes their roles from planning to deployment.
“1st Lt. McCurry [led the] planning phase,” said Taitano. “He worked with regimental transportation, SDDC [Surface Deployment and Distribution Command] and 21st Theater Sustainment Command to plan the actual movement of our equipment. Whereas I and my team on ground were the ones to actually pull it off the vessel, stage and got it ready to move from the port all the way to the training area.”
Equipment from the port vessels included the regiment’s Stryker vehicle variants, Light Medium Tactical Vehicles, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, the M977 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, recovery vehicles, containers of ammunition and the Georgia National Guard equipment.
Pulling off port operations requires not only internal assistance but also support from the unit’s relationships with Romania and Georgia, highlighting the strong bonds between the U.S. and its allies and partners.
“Primarily, we worked with Georgian military and contractors, and then, we also had a SDDC Romanian [representative] that assisted with our download,” said Taitano.
“We worked with everyone from our own Regimental Support Squadron to the host nation of Georgia and then even the local fuel vendors of Georgia,” said McCurry.
The coronavirus pandemic presented the port operations team with a unique set of challenges for the exercise.
“I would say deploying a unit in a COVID restricted environment impacted every piece of this deployment; it’s tough when each border or country you cross imposes their own set of COVID rules,” said McCurry.
McCurry further explained, “I think the 4th Squadron, as a whole, overcame these challenges because we work pretty well as a team. Everyone remained flexible, which allowed us to set the tone for when things didn’t go as planned.”
Being new to the job of port operations also presented the team with obstacles that they, too, learned to overcome.
“We didn’t have any SDDC representatives on ground to assist with the actual off load. They’re the experts in moving everything from port to port,” said Taitano, whose overall role for Noble Partner 20 is to ensure that the 4th Squadron has all of the sustainment support that they will need during the exercise.
“All of us on ground had to work through this problem set that we’ve never done. It’s not in our training background. It’s just working together and with the representatives from SDDC and getting that background knowledge through phone calls, [Microsoft] Teams meetings and trying to figure out how do we offload things correctly,” Taitano concluded.
The port operations team successfully unloaded equipment by September 6th just in time for the Noble Partner 20 opening ceremony the following day to kick off the exercise.
“We were able to show the world working with our ally and partner nations that we can successfully deploy a unit even in a COVID environment,” said McCurry.