PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s 841st Transportation Battalion, in conjunction with the 7th Transportation Brigade – Expeditionary, recently performed Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore operations at the Port of Portsmouth in support of DEFENDER-Europe 21.
Equipment from the 7th TBX was loaded aboard the Military Sealift Command's U.S. Naval Ship Bob Hope, joining equipment from other units previously loaded during port operations in Jacksonville, Florida. Once in Europe, the units will conduct larger JLOTS operations as part of Immediate Response, one of DEFENDER-Europe 21’s linked exercises, where more than 5,000 troops from eight countries will spread out across 31 training areas in 12 different countries to conduct live fire training.
JLOTS operations are part of U.S. Transportation Command’s strategic sealift mission. The process allows combined Army and Navy forces to move equipment to and from a ship on air-cushioned watercraft to overcome anti-access and area-denial challenges while improving the ability to move forces closer to tactical assembly areas.
JLOTS missions are unique in that they allow for an entire brigade-sized element to be moved on and off a ship with an improvised port infrastructure, providing flexibility to choose load locations such as a bare beach, austere port, or a damaged or fixed port.
“It’s a strategic advantage when dealing with an austere environment or when dealing with any other limiting factors that would otherwise stop us from moving such a high volume of equipment at a rapid pace,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jordan Milo, 841st Transportation Battalion mobility warrant officer and DEFENDER-Europe 21 operations officer in charge at the Port of Portsmouth.
“It doesn’t require ramps, it doesn’t require anything other than the causeway, which can be assembled organically from the vessel. The ramp is able to lower onto the causeway and then equipment can begin to [roll-on/roll-off] expeditiously and be pushed ashore,” said Milo.
This operational maneuver enhances SDDC’s seaport of debarkation capabilities in support of joint force campaigns and operations.
“Any limiting factors that would have existed from not having an improved infrastructure port, or if the depth of the water wouldn’t allow for the vessel to come in, that’s where these JLOTS operations allow us to project power ashore where we need it,” said Milo.
“If a vessel this size couldn’t pull straight into port to drop a ramp to offload over a thousand pieces of combat power, they’re able to offload it onto a barge much faster and more economically than flying it in,” he added.
During the operation, SDDC served as the centralized and streamlined communication channel, while the 7th TBX performed the heavy lifting from the causeway barges to the USNS Bob Hope.
“We organize and coordinate between all of the different key leaders of the Navy, the port authority, the stevedores, and the 7th Transportation Brigade, who are executing the mission,” said Milo.
“We’re serving as that single contact – the quarterback if you will – that’s helping to manage the project and the upload. We’re able to provide them with infrastructure and support as needed as well as ship load stow plans, so that when they’re loading the vessel we have our load planners on site able to make adjustments as needed. We’re able to capture the dimensional data that is needed and then for in-transit visibility we upload into our information systems for tracking purposes,” he added.
SDDC also serves as the single port manager to provide operational visibility for the commander.
“We are the coordinators for port authorities and ensure stevedores are available to assist with the loading of the vessel,” said Milo. “We provide overarching safety as well as all reporting up through to U.S. Transportation Command so that they have full visibility of the operations throughout all the different modes and nodes.”
The 7th TBX used the Portsmouth mission as an opportunity to increase their capabilities and hone their skills in the JLOTS mission set.
“Everything that we do is to prepare for further, future or possible scenarios in the real world. We train to fight,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jaime Hernandez-Pagan, the 7th TBX mobility warrant officer, adding “We train in austere environments to prepare ourselves and the Soldiers for the worst case scenario and to test our equipment and to ensure it is the best equipment to execute the mission.”
In the end, all of this training and mission execution will support the larger DEFENDER-Europe 21 exercise led by U.S. Army Europe and Africa. But, before anything can begin in Europe, the unit equipment from the U.S. originates with SDDC and the 7th TBX at the Port of Jacksonville and the Port of Portsmouth.
“While our part of the overarching DEFENDER-Europe 21 spectrum is small, it is one of the most important steps to execute the bigger mission,” said Hernandez-Pagan.
DEFENDER-Europe 21 will build operational readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO allies and partners by integrating more than 30,000 multinational forces from 27 nations to conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in a dozen countries.