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Deployed to CDDOC: USTRANSCOM Navy reservist helps shape theater logistics

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It's never easy moving 50,000 military troops, their equipment and supplies around the world. But when the destination is Afghanistan, known for its rugged mountains, landlocked location, limited airports, roads and modes of transportation, it really presents challenges.

Before the recent troop surge in Afghanistan, planners at the United States Central Command and the United States Transportation Command recognized the need to coordinate supply movements into the country.

U.S. Navy Capt. Todd Williams, a reservist assigned to USTRANSCOM, was activated and deployed to the U.S. Central Command Deployment Distribution Operations Center, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in October last year. Williams said he became the Future Plans division chief there in order to "shape theater logistics coordination of movement requirements in the 30 to 120-day movement window (time frame to move troops, equipment and supplies).

"I also worked with theater partners to develop additional transportation capabilities for movement of DOD requirements in the CENTCOM theater," Williams added.

In January, Williams deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, as the officer in charge of a team that was to establish the CDDOC forward location. "It was a new concept that was developed by the CENTCOM mobility shop and operation division," Williams said. The staff of the two divisions recognized that, with the surge and influx of forces into Afghanistan, they needed a greater presence there to work logistics coordination transportation issues.

"So, instead of just placing a liaison officer there, they sent a team forward, to kind of be a forward deployed listening post, working with the coalition from (Camp) Arifjan in Kuwait," Williams continued. "And we were headquartered in Kabul."

According to Williams, the team consisted of surface, air and distribution subject matter experts as well as liaison officers located at Bagram and Kandahar bases. "We integrated with the NATO's International Security Assistance Force Theater Airlift Systems division immediately to improve efficiencies in airlift and schedule sharing. With the surge forces located in the south, we concentrated our initial airfield efforts in coordination with the director of mobility forces on Kandahar Air Base."

Williams added that together with the director of mobility forces and coalition partners, his team was able to expand the airfield capabilities and the overall efficiency of cargo handling and aircraft landing time slots.

"It was challenging, yet rewarding," Williams said. "We basically stood up something that didn't exist before. We went in and had to establish a rapport and reputation with the NATO forces because we were something new. They were looking to see what we brought to the table right away, to see what kind of capabilities we had and (to) work with them.

"Working with the other coalition nations had its own challenges," Williams continued, "with languages and the way they do their movements and policies and logistics. One of the biggest was that NATO forces and countries move all their logistics. They consider it a national responsibility, which means they each are responsible for their own piece and don't work together as a group."

It was Williams' team's job to bring everything together so all the transportation movements didn't conflict. He said the biggest immediate challenge at the time was bringing the NATO nations together so his team had visibility on all the requirements and knowing where items moving were at all times.

"We had to get visibility on our movements, which was a greater challenge than in Iraq," Williams said, "because in Iraq, it's mostly moved by the Department of Defense, where in Afghanistan, most of our movements are done by commercial entities, individual-hire drivers with their own trucks and their companies with very little done by government."

In spite of the drawbacks, Williams' team had positive results.

Meeting that challenge was one of the biggest successes Williams and his team had right away, since he said NATO had neither visibility nor predictability of their transportation requirements.

Williams' team through CDDOC in Kuwait, the DIRMOBFOR in Qatar, sent the planners in USTRANSCOM's Operations and Plans directorate an operating picture, called a "sand chart" which shows requirements in color. Full situational awareness helped lead to greater efficiency.

"It allowed us to provide how much airflow mission requirements, pallets and people were flying through each airfield, and that was a big, big win with the coalition, he said. "It showed how we were actually able to show right away, what we can bring to the table."
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