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SDDC ensures value at the fort before it goes to the port

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (USTCNS) --- The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s task force concept is proving invaluable to effectively transport cargo and equipment of large Army Divisions who are more focused on last-minute training to deploy and fight the war on terror.

Task Force Bastogne is a special transportation team formed by SDDC to provide customized end-to-end deployment and distribution of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Fort Campbell, Ky. to Southwest Asia.

Task Force Bastogne is the second task force implemented after Task Force Marne, which supported the movement of the 3rd Infantry Division to Iraq last year.

“Historically, we focused on cargo preparation for our deploying customers,” said Col. Pete Lennon, commander of Task Force Bastogne. “Now we are also just as focused on making sure all the documentation is correct starting at the fort before anything is shipped to ensure smooth movement and tracking effectiveness to the very end.”

The Deployment Support Brigade Installation Team of Task Force Bastogne consists of about 20 to 25 Soldiers at any given time from the 1394th and 1190th Deployment Support Brigades temporarily assigned to Fort Campbell. Task Force Bastogne’s mission is to provide guidance and assistance to the 101st and make sure all their equipment and containers are documented, packed, marked and shipped correctly ensuring smooth and traceable movement from their installation to Southwest Asia.

One added-value feature built into Task Force Bastogne consists of a half dozen hazardous material experts from the U.S. Coast Guard working side-by-side with SDDC Soldiers. Their job is to inspect shipping containers with any hazardous items, assist 101st Soldiers interpret applicable U.S. and international regulations regarding deployment of hazardous materials, assist with documentation and markings and provide a single point contact for all hazardous material issues.

“In the past, we had Coast Guard only involved at the seaport to check containers so it was a great deal of disruption to the shipment process,” said Lt. Col. Steve Estep, data and systems integration project officer for the 1189th Transportation Brigade. “We saw the advantage of having the Coast Guard plugged in at the very front-end of the deployment process where they are needed the most.”

Coast Guard personnel wrapped into the task force process upfront are able to provide on-the-spot guidance to deploying Soldiers with container packing requirements of hazardous material. This provides an almost foolproof system of reducing container inspections at the port.

“Inspection of containers used to be a major issue for us which we stumbled over each time we deployed,” said Mike Bowers, installation transportation officer for Fort Campbell. “Before, when our containers arrived at the port, they were not packed correctly, or they didn’t have the correct paperwork, or packing list, or the correct markings, and that sort of thing.”

“Task Force Bastogne made the arrangements to bring the Coast Guard in early onto Fort Campbell and it turned out to be a great thing,” Bowers said. “Because the Coast Guard guys that are here checking and sealing our containers are part of the same team of Coast Guard guys at the port checking the containers. This avoids frustrated cargo.” Bowers said.

Another added-value feature built into Task Force Bastogne is providing early integration of key players with the deploying Soldeirs. Early integration provides time to build a positive working relationship without the up-front deployment stress interfering. Early integration also allows SDDC to identify specific requirements from the customer and lets the task force render customized assistance in getting warfighters to the fight.

“The men and women at Fort Campbell have other things to worry about and transportation should be the least of their worries – that’s where we come in,” said Lennon.

“Task Force Bastogne has become a very valid and valuable asset for this deployment, Bowers said. “What they brought to the table is a one-stop shop … consolidation of efforts, giving us a single point of contact, including the Coast Guard, which we need to conduct inspections of containers. They have given us one stop for any of our issues as we go through our deployment.”

The DSB is the nucleus of the task force’s installation team at Fort Campbell playing an essential role in providing the guidance Soldiers need to ready their equipment for deployment.

“Our responsibility as a deployment support brigade is to make sure all the unit deployment lists are correct,” said Maj. Brian Drummond, assigned to the 1394th at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and serving as DSB team chief for Task Force Bastogne. “We make sure all the dimensional data for the vehicles, all the weights, the secondary loads and the containers are complete and correct and meet port standards for shipment.”

According to Bowers, the value Task Force Bastogne has brought to the deployment of the 101st has been immense. The biggest payoff is what the task force has brought to the 101st table.

“It’s not a long distance relationship,” Bowers said. “It’s an on the ground ‘with us’ partnership. Folks from Task Force Bastogne not only understand that we’re having some pain, but they’re sharing that pain with us. So it makes for a partnership rather than a long distance relationship.”

Task Force Bastogne is tasked to orchestrate the movement of 11 force packages total supporting the 101st deployment to Southwest Asia.

The task force has moved more than 4,275 pieces of cargo and containers totaling more than 351,434 square feet for Force Packages one through five.

This equates to more than eight acres of land or more than seven football fields without the end zones filled with cargo and containers.

“We’re here to help,” Drummond said. “We’re not here to be in charge. We’re here to make a group effort so everything goes a lot smoother. We bring the technical expertise to this deployment.”

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