CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - Surface transportation experts from Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command headquarters recently traveled to Camp Shelby, one of the Army's training and mobilization bases, to conduct vital systems training for deploying Army Reservists from the 1398th Deployment and Distribution Support Battalion.

During the unit's deployment, approximately 120 soldiers from the 1398th will replace the 1184th Transportation Battalion and be charged with ensuring military cargo and equipment gets where it needs to be.

"The systems training, certification, and validation is an important part our mobilization training. The process ensures our soldiers and the Battalion possess the skill sets to conduct strategic transportation operations. It is critical to the successful performance of our deployed mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom," said Lt. Col. Benjamin Whitelock, the unit's forward commander through the deployment.

According to Command Sgt. Maj. Kester Buckmire, the 1398th will be heavily focused on redeploying cargo and equipment out of the U.S. Central Command theater of operations.

"While we have a lot of folks who have never deployed and this is all new to them, throughout the mobilization process and especially in this more detailed training, the morale and motivation has been incredibly high. They're ready. We're all ready to get over there and get the job done," said Buckmire.

While deployed, the soldiers will use two important transportation systems, known as GATES and ICODES, on a regular basis.

Global Air Transportation Execution System, or GATES, is a single port management system for aerial and surface port operations. GATES is web-based and is designed to provide cargo management, documentation, and accountability to water port users while providing in-transit visibility to transportation specialists monitoring and managing the transportation pipeline.

Integrated Computerized Deployment System, or ICODES, is an information system that provides vessel, air, rail and yard planning capability. ICODES is a web-based system with a desktop application used to plan how cargo is stowed on vessels, aircraft and trains, and how cargo is stored and staged in holding yards.

According to SDDC systems experts, GATES and ICODES ensure cargo and equipment are moved safely and efficiently and do not get held up at choke points along the transportation lines. The systems have a "push-pull" relationship.

For example, ICODES pulls cargo data from GATES to create stow plans. GATES pushes the information back to ICODES to update stow locations on the vessel. After the vessel is loaded, both ICODES and GATES do a reconciliation to make sure everything adds up. In the event the systems show a discrepancy, a port operations team does a physical re-count, scanning every piece of equipment, then updates the data.

Transportation specialists Vernita Anderson-Manning and Anthony Hill, from SDDC's G-9 Processes and Systems Branch, along with Gary Rucks, a marine cargo specialist from SDDC's G-3 Future Operations Center, and Tom Pierce, who provided contracted system and training support, conducted targeted, classroom-style, hands-on training in December and January, prior to the unit's deployment.

The unit's final exercise before deploying, simulated the full spectrum of operations involved in moving a unit's cargo from origin to destination. Rucks played the role of harbor master and mentor during the exercise and Hill shadowed and aided the soldiers in their decision-making process.

For many of the soldiers assigned to the 1398th, this will be their first deployment.

First Lt. Daniel Divirgilio, a native of Northeastern, Md., and a firefighter in his civilian career, served as the ICODES officer in charge during the exercise, "I've been in the Army Reserves for 18 months. I'm excited to go through this training and exercise and deploy for the first time. It will give me a chance to expand my leadership skills, to gain some more knowledge in procedures, and it's an opportunity to support the mission, to do my part in the fight."

Days before their departure, Col. Garrett Yee, deputy commander of mobilization for SDDC, addressed the unit. "The president just stated last week that we will be out of Afghanistan in 2014. Do you know what that means? You will be part of history. It's important to our nation that we have this incredible capability that you bring."

Most of the soldiers from the 1398th will be split up and stationed with active duty units, such as SDDC's 595th Transportation Brigade, 840th Transportation Battalion, and other SDDC geographically aligned detachments. The units are located throughout CENTCOM's area of operations in Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Dubai and Afghanistan.

The 1398th is operationally aligned to SDDC and administratively aligned under the Deployment Support Command, a subordinate command of SDDC.

SDDC is a unique Army command that delivers world-class, origin-to-destination distribution solutions. Whenever and wherever soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are deployed, SDDC is involved in planning and executing the surface and multi-modal delivery of their equipment and supplies.

The command, headquartered at Scott AFB, is composed of about 2,770 active and Reserve military and civilian surface transportation experts making it possible for Warfighters to have what they need, when they need it. SDDC accomplishes this mission by partnering with the best of U.S. commercial shipping, port, trucking and rail services delivering cargo to every corner of the globe supporting Department of Defense contingencies, exercises and humanitarian aid mission.