13th COSCOM Port Support Mission
Story and Photo by Sgt. Joel F. Gibson
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office
Soldiers of the 13th Corps Support Command's 263rd Maintenance Company and 553rd Combat Support Battalion are currently 40 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico at the Port of Beaumont augmenting the 842nd Transportation Battalion's Port Support Activity.
The PSA's Soldiers continuously strive to keep warfighters supplied in the field and get equipment back to units recently returned from deployment.
The PSA Soldiers are instrumental in offloading vessels and readying cargo for delivery to their home installations via line-haul trucks and railroad cars.
Container ships carrying as many as 1500 tanks, trucks, support vehicles and containers full of equipment arrive in the port nearly every week.
The COSCOM Soldiers augmenting the PSA are on a rotating temporary duty cycle, said Master Sgt. Troy Taft, the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the PSA.
The PSA Soldiers realize the importance of the work they are doing, and appreciate being able to work in their actual career fields, said Staff Sgt. Ernest Cartagena, a shift leader with the 263rd.
"It's a privilege to be here," said Spc. Steven R. Wolf, a heavy expanded mobility tactical truck operator with the 263rd, "I enjoy the work, and I have a lot more control of what's going on with wrecker operations than I had at Fort hood."
"When you're in garrison, you have to wait until you go to the field or get deployed to do your actual job. Out here you do your job everyday," said Spc. Donald D. Morris, a petroleum supply specialist with the 553rd.
While most of the PSA Soldiers consider their assignment a privilege and an honor, they also complete missions that require them to keep long hours.
"We work on all the vehicles that come back from Iraq. We make sure all the vehicles going to Iraq get there on time. When there are no ships to load or offload we have rail operations, line-haul truck operations or we work on our vehicles in the motor pool," said Spc. Abele K. Haile, a track vehicle mechanic with the 263rd.
PSA leaders brief their Soldiers daily on the importance of safety to ensure no Soldier loses his mission effectiveness.
"With railhead operations, trucks and ships, the Port has a lot of moving parts," said Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Nix, the senior Soldier of the 263rd detachment, "If you get distracted out there you can get hurt."
"There's really a lot of emphasis on safety," said Wolf.
It's tough to have to slow down the pace of a mission, but sometimes Soldiers have to slow down to avoid injury, said Wolf.
"We couldn't do the job we're doing here without the Soldiers from 13th COSCOM," said Lt. Col. Brian Sundin, commander of the 842nd.
The 842nd has managed the deployment of more than 40,000 vehicles since Operation Iraqi Freedom began.
Spc. Javier Lester, Spc. Abele K. Haile, Spc. Sean Strahan and Spc. Steven R. Wolf drag a tow-bar to a waiting M1A1 Abrams Tank aboard a container ship at the Port of Beaumont. Lester, Haile, Strahan and Wolf are all part of the 263rd Maintenance Company's Port Support Activity detachment.