USTRANSCOM Moves Stryker To Certification
To assist the Secretary of Defense certify to Congress that the SBCT is operationally effective and fully trained, the Army is conducting a four month Deployment Exercise/Certification Exercise that will test the prototype unit’s deployment readiness, in part by duplicating the conditions of inter-theater movements.
USTRANSCOM provides air, land, and sea transportation for the Department of Defense, both in time of peace and times of war. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Department of Defense civilian personnel staff the command.
“USTRANSCOM's role is to assist in moving the SBCT in strategic, operational, and tactical scenarios,” said Army Lt. Col. William Souser, Deputy Chief of USTRANSCOM’s Plans and Readiness Division.
“The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division is the first of six SBCTs the Army will field as part of its transformation effort.” Souser explained. Therefore the training and familiarization the DEPLOYEX/CERTEX will provide is as important for the transporters as the transported.
In support of this CERTEX, USTRANSCOM will coordinate the movement of the SBCT’s equipment and vehicles – including hundreds of Strykers; the light, armored, wheeled vehicles which are the primary platform of the SBCT – by air, land and sea from the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, Calif., to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk, La.
“Rail operations provided the bulk of the SBCT movement,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jim Walker, Military Traffic Management Command Operations, U.S. Northern Command/Joint Forces Command Team Leader. “From Ft. Lewis to Ft. Irwin,” Walker said, “600 railcars were utilized.” For the second leg to Ft. Polk and Ft. Sill, Okla., 408 railcars were utilized. The remainder of the vehicles and equipment went by Sealift.
MTMC, a component of USTRANSCOM, working closely with the nation’s rail industry, coordinates such military surface transportation.
“Because the STRYKER is a wheeled vehicle (instead of a tracked vehicle),” explained Walker, “it can be loaded significantly faster, on a greater variety of railcars. The STRYKER can also move on track that the M1A1 (Abrams main battle tank) would have difficulty with” He also added that rail transportation costs one tenth of air transportation making rail the option of choice when exercise timeframes allow it.
From Ft. Sill, Okla. five C-17 cargo aircraft airlifted part of this rail-loaded element of the SBCT to the JTRC on May 2, courtesy of the Air Mobility Command, another component of USTRANSCOM. The move, involving nine round trip missions per aircraft, delivered more than 2,000 short tons of cargo, including 55 Strykers and more than 800 troops in less than 48 hours -- 24 hours sooner than planned.
Meanwhile, a portion of the SBCT was loaded aboard the Military Sealift Command Fast Sealift Ship USNS Bellatrix, at San Diego, Calf., on April 30.
The vessel loading was conducted in 2 days, 20 hours by the MTMC port unit, the 834th Transportation Battalion from Concord, Calf. The ship, carrying 803 pieces of cargo, more than 6400 short tons, sailed through the Panama Canal arriving at the Port of Lake Charles, La., on May 10, after which all SBCT elements linked up at Ft. Polk to continue with the exercise.
Military Sealift Command, the Navy component of USTRANSCOM operates eight Fast Sealift Ships, like the Bellatrix. Fast Sealift Ships are the fastest cargo ships in the world, able to travel at speeds of up to 30 knots. Together, all eight Fast Sealift Ships can carry nearly a full Army mechanized division.
On 15 and 16 May, air missions were conducted to demonstrate the ability of the C-17 to deploy a Stryker unit into an austere area (i.e., an unprepared landing zone, a dirt runway) near Ft. Polk during a tactical scenario.
“They had thunderstorms that rolled through and delayed them a couple of hours,” said Navy Cmdr. Walter Hunt, USTRANSCOM Operations Directorate, Current Operations - Air, “but they still wound up finishing ahead of schedule, even with the bad weather because everybody was ready to roll.”
“Every mission took 10 to 15 minutes to roll the vehicles out of the aircraft,” he continued, “where we had planned for 30 minutes.”
On May 18, eight C-130s flew 24 missions, 20 of which were carrying Stryker vehicles from an austere airfield to a regular airfield. These same C-130s conducted resupply operations during the first phase of the CERTEX at the NTC.
“From the FORSCOM perspective, this exercise was very, critical, very important,” said Army Lt. Col. Lawrence Lipscomb, the U.S. Forces Command Liaison Officer to USTRANSCOM. He added, “Everything is going according to schedule.” When asked about the air operations, he said, “I’ve seen great coordination between the Air Force and the Army. I know folks down at JRTC who were very impressed.”
Air Force Maj. Joe Hayslett, USTRANSCOM Joint Transportation Plans Officer, and part of the USTRANSCOM planning and execution team for the SBCT CERTEX, said responsiveness was key to the smooth operation so far.
“Working here at USTRANSCOM,” said Hayslett, “everybody from initial planning all the way to execution – if you have a question, it gets answered. Somebody gets you an answer. As a result, everybody’s got a good handle on what everyone else is doing”
The redeployment phase of the CERTEX, which begins June 3, will use the USNS Altair, as well as air and surface assets, and will conclude with the SBCT taking part in a Joint Logistics Over The Shore ‘JLOTS’ exercise at Indian Island, Wash., on June 21.