Transportation unit handles cargo by sea, land

Story and photos by Sgt. David A. Scott
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq — Coordinating loading schedules, and creating and reviewing manifest and load plans requires military personnel with specialized training.

Although the cargo handling specialists with the 611th Seaport Operations Company, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) are normally assigned to sea-based missions, they are currently performing a land-based mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

Army cargo handling specialists, representing the majority of the 611th SOC, train at Fort Eustis, Va., are responsible for overseeing the transportation of passengers, cargo and equipment through the air, land and on water, said Sgt. Jackie D. Womack, transfer point noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the 611th SOC and an Emerald, Texas, native.

During a cargo handling mission June 16, members of the 611th SOC coordinated with the 2101st Transportation Company, 541st CSSB to load trucks and specialized communications vehicles onto Heavy Equipment Transporters at the trailer transfer point at COB Speicher.

About 24 hours later, the 611th SOC began loading containers onto flatbeds driven by the 2101st Trans. Co. during the first stage of the loading process using Rough Terrain Container Handlers.

Keeping track of paperwork and accountability of the cargo are both vital to the success of the unit’s mission success. Incorrectly handled paperwork can become a major cause of delays, said Spc. Keith Thompson, a cargo handling specialist with the 611th SOC and a Hampton, Ark., native.

Thomson said a given week’s volume of traffic can vary depending on the nature of the mission.

“Sometimes it is 300 to 500 pieces of cargo a week,” he said. “During the month, we can get a total of 1,500 to 3,000 pieces of cargo.”

Pvt. Nicholas Fritz, a cargo handling specialist with the 611th and a Springfield, Ohio, native, said he expected to perform cargo handling instead of convoy movement this deployment.

“I didn’t expect to be doing infantry-style work and driving,” he said. “My job (involves) loading and tracking cargo.”

Fritz said although he is with a seaport operations company, he was not surprised by the land-based deployment to COB Speicher, once he read his orders.

“Honestly, yes; when the orders said Iraq, I figured it would be a land-based deployment,” he said.

Spc. Gary Staten, a cargo specialist with the 611th SOC and a Philadelphia native, said the mission of the company is to move cargo in a manner which encourages accountability.

“Basically we’re here to process cargo,” he said. “We do it as a team the majority of the time.  We ensure that all of the transportation movement (releases) and radio frequency identification tags on the cargo match, that way everybody can always track their work and whatever piece of equipment they are looking for.”

Accountability is important because lost shipments can result in a mission failure somewhere else along the supply chain, Staten said.

“You always have constant control and oversight and knowledge of where the cargo is going,” he said. “This is because one drop in the system can result in losing a shipment. Even the smallest box can be worth $200,000 to $300,000.  Plus, it can jeopardize someone else’s mission; your fellow counterpart that’s out there (in) theater.”

Staten said this deployment has involved a lot more rules in comparison to his previous two deployments.

The upcoming responsible drawdown will present the 611th with additional cargo traffic, especially those parts of the departure which involve retrograding or reallocating equipment, he said.

“It is going to be busier for transporters,” Staten said.  “When it comes to shutting down contingency operating bases, transporters are the ones that you call on.  If it involves any sort of drawdown, we naturally get the brunt of the work.  No matter what it is, it has to come back.”

 

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Pvt. Derek Harkey, a cargo handling specialist with the 611th Seaport Operations Company, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Norfolk, Va., native, drives a humvee onto a Heavy Equipment Transporter prior to a convoy movement June 17 out of Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)

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Sgt. Richard Laurey, container yard non commissioned officer-in-charge with the 611th Seaport Operations Company, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a native of Washington, D.C., uses a Rough Terrain Container Handler to move cargo June 18 at the central receiving and shipping point at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)