JACKSONVILLE, Fla. March 25, 2021 — In 2020, the military announced that Defender Europe would be the largest joint training exercise in 25 years. Thousands of pieces of equipment were already loaded on ships and headed to Europe when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Larry Lawrence, a mission-essential Senior Marine Cargo Specialist was working at an operations center in Virginia that monitors worldwide vessel and cargo movements, and watched as the vessels reversed course and maneuvered back to the States.
Lawrence is part of the team that is responsible for the military’s port operations on the Gulf Coast and East Coast.
Lawrence worked with his lifetime of connections with commercial industry partners to help coordinate for the ships to reverse course and efficiently maneuver the cargo back to 86 locations in the United States in a timely manner without loss to the government. Earlier this year, he was named the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command Terminal Operations Civilian of the Year.
After nearly a year of taking pandemic precautions, he finally got the chance to work at one of his favorite ports again in Jacksonville, Fla. in support of this year’s Defender Europe exercise.
“Every port is totally different. This port is able to do various types of aircraft, so anything from the newer vertical takeoff and landing craft to Black Hawks,” Lawrence said. “This port is also special because it is used by the 101st Airborne Division,” Lawrence added.
Lawrence worked for days on a stow plan in a small trailer parked in the shipyard, analyzing the plan to ensure the equipment was in the right place for the mission ahead. The stow plan looks like the blueprint of the belly of a ship, and it contains the specific locations of 750 pieces of heavy military equipment, like tanks, trucks and containers. The equipment belongs to the Florida National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Combat Team and is destined for Europe.
Lawrence has 40 years of experience in military transportation, but he doesn’t like to take credit.
“Some of the smartest guys in the business are in this room,” Larry said, deflecting attention away from himself.
Lawrence said he depends on many groups working together to make a vessel loading operation successful.
One of the first steps of a port operation is taking an inventory of the equipment, and cargo specialists from the 1st Mission Support Command, Caribbean Geographical Command, inspected and labeled every piece of equipment before the sun went down.
The stow plan was updated throughout the day as new information about the weight and dimensions of the cargo flowed in. Each time a discrepancy was found, for example, if a unit over or underestimates the weight of a Humvee, the weight distribution on the ship can be affected and the stow plan changes.
Lawrence presented his final stow plan to the vessel captain. After the plan was approved, the cargo specialists and stevedores loaded the equipment on the ship for two full days, working from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A few days later, the U.S.N.S. Bob Hope sailed 612 miles up the coast to the Portsmouth Marine Terminal in Virginia to take on an additional load of warping tugs, roll-on, roll-off discharge facilities and other complicated watercraft components belonging to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary).
Lawrence was on site to advise the 7th TBX, which is tasked with building a platform on the open water and offloading the carefully stowed 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s equipment on a causeway system, a process called Joint Logistics Over the Shore, as part of Defender Europe 21.
“Larry Lawrence has been there for us from day one and he is the link making sure that Army and Navy are speaking the same language,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jaime Hernandez-Pagan, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) mobility officer said.
“When we get to the location, all the components are going to be linked, it’s going to be a high-visibility mission and we play a small but important step,” Hernandez-Pagan added.
“The soldiers are excited, they can’t wait to get up there. The equipment is lined up and everyone is ready. We are keeping everyone in the bubble, but we’re excited.”
Follow the latest news and information on DEFENDER-Europe 21 at www.EuropeAfrica.army.mil/DefenderEurope.