Service members track travel at JBB passenger terminals

Story by Spc. Michael V. Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Just as equipment and sensitive items are tracked for accountability, units with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) track and maintain accountability of personnel, both at Joint Base Balad and throughout Iraq every day.

The mission of the reception, replacement, return-to-duty, redeployment, and rest and recuperation team with the 487th Human Resource Company, 90th Special Troops Battalion, 90th Sustainment Brigade, 13th SC(E) is to track service members and civilian contractors in transit arriving at or departing from JBB, said Staff. Sgt. William MacNeil, a noncommissioned officer in charge of the passenger terminal, R5 team with the 487th and a Fayetteville, N.C., native.

The Tactical Personnel System and Deployed Theater Accountability System track the movement of personnel as they travel, said Staff Sgt. Tamara Oliver, noncommissioned officer in charge of the R5 team. The TPS is a simple form of tracking, showing the start and end point of the trip, while the DTAS is more detailed and states the service members’ locations and the status of their flights, she said.

“We’re set up to receive over 600 passengers and, in the process of receiving those 600 or more, we account for them in the DTAS and scan them in the TPS,” said Oliver, an Atlanta native. “Once we account for them in those systems, we check out their traveling plans.”

MacNeil said the team begins assisting service members the moment they arrive in country. That is when they receive a reception brief about Balad and information related to their travel.

When units arrive at JBB, the R5 coordinates with unit representatives to help with their transition into theater, he said.

While the R5 team in Balad deals heavily with the accountability of transient personnel, the team’s largest mission is service members’ leave, called rest and recuperation, or R and R, said MacNeil.

“For the R and R personnel traveling … we process them through and we coordinate with the Air Force and the (KBR, Inc.) personnel that work on the out bound side,” he said. “We’re assisting with the process. It’s a joint effort working with those different agencies.”

The Air Force Movement Control Team at the Balad passenger terminal takes the names the R5 team provides to put on the flight manifest, said MacNeil. Personnel report to the passenger terminal with the dates given to them by their command. There they will be briefed and given additional travel information and times, he said.

As the responsible drawdown of U.S. troops and equipment from Iraq draws nearer, JBB has become a centralized hub for service members and civilian contractors traveling in and out of Iraq before they depart the country to Kuwait, said Oliver.

“Baghdad used to be the major hub for R and R but now they’re drawing that down so they can include (Multi-National Force – West) and (Multi-National Force – North) so we can merge together in order to get the passengers flowing quicker,” he said. “Baghdad could not hold all of the passengers coming in and out.”

Passengers fly in and out of the Catfish Air terminal at JBB as well, said Marine Lance Cpl. Jesse Mendez, a Catfish Air R5 team liaison with the 847th HRC and a Houston native.

“From here we make sure we rendezvous with them and get them to where they need to go,” he said.