WASHINGTON — While on his way to Australia for exercise Talisman Sabre 23, 1st Lt. Jared McCully, transportation officer with the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), found out he was invited to a local black-tie charity event.
He, alongside a few other U.S. service members and an Australian counterpart, were to be guests at the mayor’s annual banquet.
The team had not come prepared for such an event.
“Of course, when you’re limited to what you can pack in your duffel bag, a tuxedo isn’t what you anticipate bringing,” he said with a laugh. ‘We didn’t want to offend anyone by declining the invitation because we realized we were the only ones to get the guest of honor invite.”
In the small coastal town of Bowen in northeast Australia, finding appropriate attire for everyone invited would prove challenging. That’s why McCully’s commander left it to him.
I’m known as the guy who deals with the unique challenges, he acknowledged.
He went to work and found out the closest place to rent what they needed was almost three hours away. With no time to lose, he and a few other Soldiers hopped in a car and made the successful journey.
Not long after, he was sporting his tuxedo and meeting members of the community.
“It’s one of those things, where you don’t think while doing a mission in a small town in Australia that you’ll get sent to the black-tie charity event,” he said.
This was just one event in what turned out to be an action-packed exercise that he won’t soon forget.
After graduating from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania in 2019, the Canton, Ohio native knew he wanted to work with Army watercraft. This capability allows combat forces to move equipment and sustainment supplies from sea to shore.
He specifically sought out the 7th Transportation Brigade and has worked there since joining the Army. For the last year, he has been in the role of port location analyst.
He goes to desired training locations months in advance and scouts to see if the area’s infrastructure and community support are compatible for joint logistics over-the-shore.
JLOTS is an operation that allows vehicles and equipment to move from sea to shore in remote environments that don’t offer port access. It gives the Department of Defense a way to continuously provide support and sustainment for troops over a long period of time.
“I see logistics over-the-shore as being a very essential program for the DOD,” McCully said. “This is going to be one of those tool sets that provides us with the adaptability to access places that not many other forces in the world have access to and to also sustain ourselves.”
Planning for the JLOTS operation at Talisman Sabre 23 started almost 14 months ago. After working with the Australian Defence Force, talking with subject matter experts, and having U.S. Army divers survey the possible locations, the team received approval to conduct operations at Kings Beach in Bowen.
McCully and the team working JLOTS arrived in Australia weeks before the kickoff of the exercise. They quickly started setting things up.
JLOTS is a 24/7 operation with the crews working in 12-hour shifts. Much of the work is done at sea when weather permits. The team must receive the equipment, label it and prep it for the move.
“There is a lot of work being done behind the scenes,” he said.
Being one of the senior members of the operation, McCully, who is also the JLOTS project manager, is often tasked with helping solve problems as they arise. He is also the one who gets to brief and escort distinguished visitors to explain the operational capabilities.
“Most people don’t know what Army watercraft are,” he said. “Trying to get stakeholder buy-in and support from external organizations has been one of my key focuses during this exercise.”
He met with community leaders, U.S. and Australian senior military leaders, congressional staff and Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth.
Prior to the secretary's arrival, McCully learned he would be promoting to captain and saw the dates would coincide with the visit. He connected with her team to see if she would lead the ceremony for him and other service members promoting or reenlisting.
She agreed, and they worked it in as the culminating event of her time at JLOTS.
“It’s one of those fun stories that I’ll get to tell for the rest of my life,” he said.
McCully not only engaged with senior leaders during the exercise, but also with the local community. U.S. service members participated in several community engagement events while in Australia.
They visited local schools, community job fairs and attended the occasional banquet. These engagements provided opportunities to build strong bonds with the community and Australian partners.
“This has probably been one of the best training areas we have ever been to,” he explained. “I want [the community] to have a positive impression of us. We’re not here to take advantage of the resources. We’re here to call this a second home for a little while, even if it’s just for a few months.”
McCully said he made lasting memories while exploring Australia and working with his teammates to display the JLOTS capability.
After more than a month of preparation and days of execution during the exercise, the team was able to bring equipment ashore using a causeway ferry. The harsh weather conditions prevented the team from using their preferred method of a trident pier, an 1,800-foot floating bridge that connects ship to shore.
“It’s not every day the mission you’re doing is arguably the most important mission in the Army,” he said. “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.”
That event was the culmination of more than a year of planning and weeks of work for McCully and the team. The job he accomplished during that time did not go unnoticed by those around him.
“Jared was instrumental to the success of the JLOTS mission across a variety of facets,” said Col. Samuel Miller, commander, 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary). “From the early stages of operational planning, to coordinating with stakeholders on numerous key leader visits, Jared took the initiative far beyond what you would expect of a junior officer.”
Now, as the exercise ends, planning will start for the next JLOTS in the Indo-Pacific in 2024.