BOWEN, Australia — Service members across the joint force seized a narrow window of cooperating sea states to rehearse the critical capability of driving vehicles and equipment ashore via a causeway ferry during Exercise Talisman Sabre, July 31, in Bowen, Australia.
The operation commonly referred to as joint logistics over-the-shore, or JLOTS, enables the discharge of vehicles and equipment from sea to shore in austere environments, or when port facilities are damaged or unavailable.
“Over the past week we’ve been battling some pretty serious sea states,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kyle Blue, maritime operations, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary). “When we received the weather report there was a window of opportunity, the team executed the mission to perfection. The crews quickly reacted and prepared the causeway ferry to set sail. Once the crew reached the beach, they offloaded all the equipment in under 30 minutes, which is a testament to their training and readiness."
The harsh weather conditions stunted the Army mariners from grounding the trident pier to the shore, the preferred method for JLOTS. The trident pier resembles a floating bridge that can span 1,800 feet in length and connects the vessel, to the roll on/roll off discharge facility, to the shore.
“It’s unfortunate we haven’t been able to stab the pier to the shore yet,” said 1st Sgt. Randall J. Gibson, first sergeant, 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion (Terminal). “But at the same time, we’re proving that at the end of the day, we’re going to get the job done and bring the equipment ashore one way or another.”
As a means to continue with the mission, Army mariners loaded the equipment onto the causeway ferry to shuttle the vehicles to the beach landing site. The causeway ferry measures over a football field in length and 24 feet wide. The elongated pontoon-like conveyance was flanked by two motored vessels and made landfall just as the sun was rising, cementing this iteration of Talisman Sabre as the first ever with a U.S. Army led JLOTS operation.
Of the many sustainment training objectives planned for Talisman Sabre, validating JLOTS remained a priority as it demonstrates a critical capability that can be leveraged in a contested logistics environment. Furthermore, it builds readiness across the Army maritime fleet and enhances combined and joint interoperability.
In total, approximately 10 different units supported JLOTS in some capacity, with nearly 650 service members and civilians on ground from the U.S. Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Australian Defence Force.
The level of planning and coordination that transpired started months in advance that included stakeholders across the joint and combined force, as well as the community members in Bowen to ensure access and support.
Capt. Jared McCully, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), played an integral role as one of the lead planners for JLOTS, and was a primary source for queries on evolving requirements and operational updates.
“It’s not every day the mission you’re doing is arguably the most important mission in the Army,” said McCully. “Expeditionary logistics is not designed to be easy, but we are here with our partners to take on a mission many would shy away from.”
The strategic importance of the operation drew the attention of leaders from the U.S. Army and ADF alike, with visits from the Secretary of the Army, the commanding generals from U.S. Army Materiel Command and U.S. Army Pacific, along with a suite of senior ADF leaders.
The distinguished guests toured the beach landing site, received tabletop briefs on operations and the state of Army maritime operations, and boarded USCG boats to get closer views of the cargo ships and the roll on/roll off discharge facility.
“To bring this operation together, it was a complete team effort that spanned stakeholders from across the globe,” said Col. Samuel Miller, commander, 7th TB(X). “I’m grateful to all the Army senior leaders, both U.S. and Australian that visited to see what the joint and combined team was able to accomplish in Bowen.”
Participating units for JLOTS included: 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Navy Beach Group 1, U.S. Coast Guard – Port Security Unit 312, 86th Engineer Dive Detachment, 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, U.S. Transportation Command and ADF liaisons.
The Indo-Pacific area of responsibility remains the priority theater for the U.S. Army, and exercises like Talisman Sabre provide the setting to rehearse large scale sustainment objectives alongside combined and joint partners.
“In a contested logistics environment, the sustainment enterprise needs to be adaptive and flexible to meet the operational needs across the Indo-Pacific,” said Maj. Gen. Jered Helwig, commander, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. “I think we were able to communicate that to the leaders that visited. I believe they have a greater appreciation for Army maritime operations, what we can offer and what we need going forward.”
Talisman Sabre is the largest bilateral military exercise between Australia and the United States, with multinational participation, advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific by strengthening relationships and interoperability among key allies and enhancing our collective capabilities to respond to a wide array of potential security concerns.