WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2010 — Mission: relocate a headquarters staff from New Jersey and Virginia to Illinois, while managing sea and land transportation of supplies and equipment for two wars, and moving household goods for all Defense Department servicemembers and civilians.
The Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command completed that mission this month, concluding a phased move and establishing full mission capability at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
SDDC’s commander, Army Maj. Gen. Kevin A. Leonard, said this week that as the Army component for U.S. Transportation Command, the command now has better integration with Transcom, also located at Scott.
Unit representatives integrate the command’s efforts with other logistics elements through Transcom’s operations or “fusion” center, which includes representatives from Air Mobility Command, Military Sealift Command, Defense Logistics Agency, other federal agencies and the State Department.
SDDC’s 595th Transportation Brigade works under a Transcom contract] to arrange equipment and supply transport in the U.S. Central Command’s area of operations, the general said. In shipping to Afghanistan, the unit moves equipment and supplies both through Pakistan from the port of Karachi and through the northern distribution network, composed of commercial carriers traveling through Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus to Afghanistan.
SDDC and Transcom work closely with the State Department for customs, diplomatic clearances and other international requirements for the network, the general said. The command’s 598th Transportation Brigade in Europe manages cargo coming into seaports there until it reaches the Centcom theater, where the 595th picks it up, he added.
The command has also played a vital role in managing the return or transfer of equipment from Iraq, Leonard said.
“We have a very deliberate process that has velocity to it, that can move materiel from the forward operating bases in Iraq down to Kuwait, and either over to Afghanistan or back to the United States,” he said. “It’s happening in a deliberate, thoughtful way that I don’t know we’ve ever been able to achieve before.”
The surge in Afghanistan happened while the command was moving supplies and equipment out of Iraq.
“We moved that equipment rapidly to Kuwait, Army Materiel Command assessed it, and if it was in good shape we put it on ships and sent it to Afghanistan,” the general said. “About 40 percent of the equipment requirements for the new brigades going into Afghanistan were supplied from Iraq. It’s unprecedented in our military history. We didn’t do that between Europe and the Pacific in World War II.”
As forces return home from Iraq and, eventually, from Afghanistan, Leonard said, the challenge for the logistics field is maintaining “strategic velocity.”
“Simply put, if you’re resetting the force over a period of two years, that force still has to be ready for any contingency – Haiti, or something bigger than Haiti – that might come along,” he explained. “In that process, you must be able to move troops and materiel from Point A to B in the most expeditious fashion that you can to achieve whatever effect you want to achieve.
“In a disaster of global magnitude,” he continued, “you can’t say, ‘Well, we have this wonderful capability, but it’s going to take us about 30 days to get there.’ It’s unacceptable. So SDDC’s challenge, and Transcom’s for the Department of Defense, is strategic velocity: the ability to move quickly between mission requirement and capability. That’s our job.”
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