PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- The 599th Transportation Brigade and partners offloaded 25th Infantry Division cargo and equipment here Dec. 3-6 during 24-hour-a-day vessel operations on the USNS Britten and USNS Fisher that was returning from Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The 25th I.D. 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 25th Combat Aviation Brigade equipment had left from Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, after the units completed their rotation at the training center.
Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor took the lead for the offload. While the 599th had brought in a team in from the 836th Transportation Battalion to take the lead in loading out the equipment on its way to Louisiana in September, leadership determined that the risk of infection because of COVID-19 was too high to bring a team all the way from 836th headquarters at Yokohama North Dock, Japan, for the discharge operation.
“It’s always quicker and easier to offload than upload,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joel Hernandez, 599th mobility warrant officer and 599th officer-in-charge of the offload. “We were originally supposed to have the 836th come out, but we decided not to at the time because of the coronavirus; we decided to handle it on our own.
“It’s a lot simpler to offload a ship than upload it. It’s a learning curve for some of the junior enlisted soldiers who were helping to tally the cargo coming off of the ship. Sometimes they don’t realize that what they think is one piece of cargo is really two pieces. This gives them some learning experience.
“It’s also a new learning curve for some of the Navy personnel,” he added. “They get a chance to look at the type and how much equipment we actually have.”
Nicholas Sanchez, 599th traffic management specialist, worked the night shift. He had high praise for the Army-Navy teamwork during the operation.
“Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor personnel were all very professional,” said Sanchez. “They are workhorses, and they know what they are doing. The local Navy reserve was out there training on the offload at the same time. They were also good; they didn’t impede our times at all.”
He said the only problems came with software for the automatic tally.
“For myself, the only problems came when the Deployable GATES [Global Air Transportation Execution System] software had problems transitioning information to the Regional GATES software system. We took it up to Headquarters SDDC GATES personnel, and they and the IT folks on hand were able to smooth it out.”
Marine cargo specialist Sgt. Nashell Mendez worked the day shift.
“Our duties were to use handheld scanners to track equipment coming off of the vessel,” Mendez said. “The only problems we had were that some vehicles didn’t have military shipping labels at all. So we just wrote down bumper numbers on the tally sheet with any other description we could find. If they couldn’t figure out what vehicle we were talking about by our description, they would have to drive out to the lot to find the vehicles with no MSLs and add them in that way.”
Surface Operations Center NCOIC, Master Sgt. Louis Burnett, also scanned vehicles coming off of the ship.
“When you finish your shift, you have to go and reconcile what’s on the tally with what’s on the scanner to make sure they know where everything is,” he said. “There were still a lot of either missing or unreadable labels that could not be scanned. For those that were readable, we had no issues with scanning the equipment and having it be in the system. That was good on the 842ndTransportation Battalion. As long as something had a label, it was already in the system. We weren’t having to create records for anything.”
“I want to also recognize the good job the 842nd did with loading the ship,” Burnett said. “They put most of the dead-lined vehicles in one spot, so they did a fine job of loading the vessel so it was as easy to offload here as possible.”
Burnett also recognized the change in abilities in 25th I.D. personnel versus their expertise during the upload in September.
“The 2/25 also performed very well," he said. "After an upload here, an offload and then a reload in Texas, they were a lot more experienced for the offload here, and I think that showed.”
Burnett also appreciated the working relationship between 599th and FLC-Pearl Harbor.
“We were paired one Army person with a counterpart from the Navy to make up our teams,” he said. “Our experience really paid off, we were able to train the new Navy folks really well on how to document cargo and how to use the new scanners. It was a nice joint relationship, I thought.”