At strategic seaports across the globe, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s (SDDC) transportation battalions (TBn) plan, execute, and integrate surface deployment and distribution capabilities, execute installation support, and conduct port operations to project and sustain the armed forces in support of global warfighting requirements. In the summer of 2020, 842nd TBn received their first mobility warrant officer (MWO) to help facilitate strategic transportation. This article provides insight into the essential role of the TBn MWO in assisting the command and deploying customers better understand the strategic transportation process and requirements.
Within the 842nd TBn, the MWO is assigned to the battalion’s current operations team. In practice, however, the MWO was useful for both current and future operations. The MWO’s unique experience and subject matter expertise in strategic transportation best served the battalion by providing enterprise “end to end” distribution deployment synchronization. Deployment synchronization entails a high degree of unit movement data analysis toward addressing potential system errors and engagements throughout the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise (JDDE). The MWO’s efforts sync the JDDE port operations and commercial strategic partner capabilities, including fort to port cargo timelines.
The MWO’s deep unit movement data analysis prevented many problems and aided key stakeholder engagements, synchronizing fort to port cargo movement timelines. The TBn MWO’s embedded expertise operationalizes the time phased force deployment data (TPFDD), conveying a shared understanding between the tactical warfighter and SDDC strategic enablers. Too often, TPFDD maintenance occurs alongside active movement planning. The MWO has a harmonizing effect on resynchronizing changes in the planning cycle. Staying abreast of changes, coupled with longer lead times of strategic sealift operations, can come with uncertainty, but throughput requirements are met with a specialized skillset that the MWO possesses. This understanding assists with planning out the sealift requirements in a manner that is more conducive to the combatant commander’s intent for the flow of critical combat equipment and associated cargo. The MWO has experienced-based foresight to get ahead of the challenges at the tactical level, which is used to balance essential capabilities of throughput within the strategic seaports.
For those outside the TBn, the MWO functions as a force multiplier, mentoring fellow MWOs on creating accurate movement data to improve unit deployment planning. The battalion has increased its ability to influence pre-deployment activities at the deploying unit’s point of origin, positively impacting throughput efficiencies at the strategic seaports operated by the 842nd. The experience and professional networks that MWOs bring to the TBn will continue to impact the enterprise as the Army trains and prepares for large-scale combat operations.
While the deploying unit has an inherent responsibility to adopt best practices from their lessons learned, the MWO can directly assist units with knowledge of SDDC deployment requirements, Army-wide deployment systems, and strategic movement timeline benchmarks. While not all-inclusive, deploying units will have less difficulty in the deployment planning and execution process by emphasizing the following:
- Establish a resilient command deployment discipline program with a bench to maintain a unit’s readiness when personnel turnover occurs.
- Coordinate planning with SDDC representatives at the seaport no later than D-180, when timelines permit.
- Certify unit movement data accuracy within an organizational equipment list (OEL) submission against Computerized Movement Planning and Status System. Accuracy with OEL data drives the unit deployment list (UDL) validation. Late UDL validation delays obtaining proper fort to port conveyances and the actual deployment vessels. This endangers meeting the port call order and deployment timelines.
- Enter and assign or associate all secondary loads in Transportation Coordinator’s Automated Information for Movements System 2.
- Declare the hazardous (DD 2890s) cargo alongside submission of the export traffic release request and funds verification and use authorization.
- Provide the solicitation for domestic rate routing request (DD 1085) through SDDC HQ commercial rail or line-haul no later than Available Load Date minus 60 days.
- Understand friction points at seaports of embarkation (SPOE)/seaports of debarkation (SPOD). For example, weather (wind and rain) destroys paper-based military shipping labels (MSL), often requiring units to reprint once the equipment arrives at port. Unit level purchase and use of Mylar MSLs to protect the scanned data in all weather conditions improve equipment processing efficiencies.
- Submit all sensitive items (DD 1907) and safety of life at seas memos no later than a week before cargo arrives at the SPOE/SPOD.
- Identify the right leadership and port support activity workforce to assist with cargo accountability, correct documentation, and maintenance issues.
SDDC TBns will continue to play a critical role in the throughput of military cargo for the foreseeable future. As the technical transportation experts for the Army, MWOs play a crucial role in unit deployments across the globe. SDDC MWOs must serve as trusted advisors, charged with the responsibility to understand the deployment processes through a progressive strategic lens. As technical leaders, they are subject matter experts and assist in synchronizing cargo deployment across countries and oceans. This key billet requires a great deal of engagement within the joint deployment and distribution enterprise to successfully deliver critical equipment to the required location by the combatant commander’s delivery date.
Lt. Col. Tyler D. Olsen currently serves as the commander for the 842nd Transportation Battalion, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, located in Beaumont, Texas. He holds a master’s degree in business management from Central Michigan University, Michigan.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sidiq Aluqdah is the mobility officer for the 842nd Transportation Battalion, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, located in Beaumont, Texas. He holds a master’s degree in project management from Grantham University, Kansas.
This article was published in the Summer 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.