BEAUMONT, Texas — Equipment belonging to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, began arriving in Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas on two ships belonging to the U.S. Navy Sept. 25 before beginning convoy operations to the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk for JRTC Rotation 21-01.
Not only were the Hawaii Soldiers headed to JRTC for a rotation, they were also tapped to participate in U.S. Transportation Command’s annual exercise, Joint Readiness Exercise 20.
“USTRANSCOM's number one priority is warfighting readiness, in this case making sure Soldiers are trained and ready to conduct the full spectrum of operations,” said Vice Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command. “This exercise is all about getting Army forces into an environment where they can conduct realistic, relevant and challenging training.”
The exercise tests the Army’s ability to rapidly deploy a brigade combat team, U.S. Forces Command and U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s ability to prepare a brigade combat team for deployment and USTRANSCOM’s capability to activate organic assets needed to move personnel and equipment.
Mewbourne said the loading and offloading of equipment and personnel was accomplished while following COVID-19 protocols.
“I am greatly appreciative of all the mitigation efforts being taken from the various levels within the community, the industry that supports this exercise, as well as the members in uniform, to be able to safely conduct this exercise in the face of a global pandemic,” said Mewbourne.
The 2nd BCT, 25th Inf Div, received a deployment order for the exercise in mid-August and the sealift deployment readiness exercise kicked off Sept. 1.
The units were assessed on their ability to respond to a published deployment order, how quickly and accurately they could prepare cargo for deployment, and how well they coordinated their arrival to the seaport.
“An important aspect of these events is to exercise the ports,” said Mewbourne. “"We rely on multiple strategic ports throughout the country in order to take the joint forces that reside within the continental United States, load them on ships, and sail wherever those forces are needed.”
The Army units that on-loaded equipment were the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s 599th Transportation Brigade and 836th Transportation Battalion. The units that off-loaded equipment were the 7th Transportation Brigade Expeditionary’s 11th Terminal Battalion, 368th Seaport Operations Company, 567th Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 612th Movement Control Team and 511th Dive Detachment.
Lt. Col. Gordon Vincent, commander, 842nd Transportation Battalion, Port of Beaumont, said JRE 20 is essential to the readiness of the participating Soldiers.
“They don’t get to do this very often,” he said. “It’s a chance to generate the combat power for an infantry brigade coming from Hawaii. They’ll discharge vessels, account for the cargo, assist the brigade in building convoy serials, and then facilitate the onward movement to Fort Polk, prior to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division’s regularly scheduled rotation at JRTC.”
Vincent said his unit has mission control on the four strategic seaports in the Gulf of Mexico: Port of Corpus Christi, Texas; Port of Beaumont, Texas; Port Arthur, Texas; and Gulfport, Mississippi.
We would normally execute the discharge with our local long shore labor partners,” Vincent said. “For this exercise we’re using Soldiers from the 7th Transportation Brigade out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to execute that discharge. Their Soldiers will be able to get MOS specific training on cargo in this scale and size they otherwise would not have the opportunity to get.”
Once the vehicle leave the Texas ports for JRTC, Vincent said his unit’s work is not done.
“When the JRTC rotation is over, we’ll receive the cargo back, load the vessels and send the brigade back to Hawaii,” he said.
Capt. Jordan Jendersee, commander, 366th Seaport Operations Company, 7th Transportation Brigade, Fort Story, Virginia, said participating in JRE 20 allows the Soldiers in his unit to validate the training they do at their home station.
“In theory, this is what a Seaport Operations Company is supposed to do,” he said. “We’re the continuity between the large vessels and the download, and then employing the combat power for maneuver units.
“In the Army, there is no one else to do the cranes, the unlatching and movement of the vehicles to actually move the force forward.”
While most of the 2nd BCT, 25th Inf Div’s vehicles and storage bins were offloaded in Port Arthur, the division’s airframe went to Beaumont, where Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, offloaded the helicopters for use during Rotation 21-01.
Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Laubender was NCOIC of the 106 Soldier detachment that loaded the helicopters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, before offloading them at Beaumont.
“Our mission was to move the airframe from Hawaii to JRTC,” he said. “We have to make sure the aircraft are properly rigged on the ship so they aren’t damaged on the crossing. We make sure everyone is communicating. It’s a great learning experience, especially for our younger Soldiers.”
Joint readiness exercises have been conducted annually since 2016. Daniel Dryden, USTRANSCOM program manager for the training and readiness division, explained lessons learned from past deployments.
“In past deployments such as those during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, troops received equipment in theater rather than deploying all their organic equipment from home station,” said Dryden.
For JRE 20, Dryden said approximately 2,000 pieces of cargo were loaded on the two ships and about 5,000 total personnel participated in the exercise.