The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command Plant finds right conditions to grow
The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command left an office plant when it relocated from Fort Eustis, Va. to Scott Air Force Base, Ill. 13 years ago, but 597th Transportation Brigade secretary Christine Shipley has been caring for it ever since.

Shipley traced the plant's origins to the SDDC's previous headquarters in Bayonne, New Jersey, and discovered that the plant is at least 23 years old. (Photo Credit: Julie Kelemen)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. Feb. 26, 2021 — The workforce at the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is geographically dispersed, but an ivy plant helps them feel connected.

The ivy is a holdout from the command’s former headquarters in Bayonne, New Jersey in the early '90s, according to Christine Shipley, a command secretary at the 597th Transportation Brigade in Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

“It started out on top of a clerk’s desk at the Military Personnel section when the SDDC was called Military Traffic Management Command Eastern Area,” Shipley said.

During that time, the command also operated a Western Area office in California. The close-knit workforce played a major role in key global operations, including the surface movement of munitions, explosives, and other hazardous cargo into the Middle East in support of Operation Desert Storm, as well as key roles in several contingency operations in Europe and Africa.

In the years following, the military reduced defense spending and began to downsize. Many installations, including the MTMC's home base at Military Ocean Terminal in New Jersey were ordered to close under a Base Realignment and Closure directive.

So the bountiful plant was relocated to Virginia when the Eastern and Western Area Commands closed in 1998.

Shipley started working for SDDC in 2001 and said she remembers taking turns with another clerk to water the plant before heading out for the weekend.

“At first this legendary plant was one of many plants in the office on top of the file cabinets, but it grew so much that we ran it across the file cabinets and partitions,” Shipley said, “We offered partitions and clippings of the plant to anyone who wanted a cutting."

The clippings continue to grow if they receive proper care, and while it would be impossible to count the total number of visitors who received a stalk of the plant over the past two decades, it is safe to say that a countless number were replanted around the country.

Over the next several years, as the plant continued to flourish, the Army ramped up its global operations and shifted its focus to readiness.

In 2004, MTMC was renamed Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command to reflect its enlarged role in end to end surface transportation, and began the process of moving to its current location at Scott Air Force, Ill. in 2008.

Shipley remembers it was a time of upheaval and change, but the “Surface Warriors” formed a rock-solid team and many kept in touch even after the move.

Several people retired, some took other jobs and some resigned, and there was no one left who could take the plant to Scott Air Force Base, so they agreed to let Shipley take the plant to a new position at the 597th Transportation Brigade headquarters, a subordinate unit.

She said it was important to continue the tradition of sharing the plant leaves with military and civilian personnel because it brings joy to many people.

“Here we are in 2021, this legendary plant still continues to grow and is still as beautiful as ever.”