USA — Program Examines Transportation Command’s Mission

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2011 — U.S. Trans­porta­tion Com­mand and its peo­ple got top billing this week dur­ing a His­to­ry Chan­nel pre­mier that exam­ined their task of pack­ing and ship­ping every sin­gle item the U.S. mil­i­tary needs to keep oper­at­ing.

The Scott Air Force Base, Ill.-based com­mand took cen­ter stage dur­ing a “Mod­ern Mar­vels” series show on the tech­nol­o­gy and inge­nu­ity required to pack­age items for move­ment.

Air Force Gen. Dun­can J. McN­abb, Transcom’s com­man­der, described the mag­ni­tude of the command’s mis­sion of pro­vid­ing strate­gic move­ment for U.S. forces around the world.

“We basi­cal­ly do about 900 sor­ties a day, 2,600 truck move­ments. We have 44 ships that are on-load­ing, off-load­ing or under­way, and about 100 rail­car ship­ments every day,” he said. “If we actu­al­ly went to full-out war, we would do about three to four times that amount.”

McN­abb said ensur­ing com­bat­ant com­man­ders and warfight­ers have what they need to do their jobs is his top pri­or­i­ty, cit­ing Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis, com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as exam­ples.

“As I tell Gen­er­al Petraeus and Gen­er­al Mat­tis, my job is to make sure they nev­er wor­ry about this,” McN­abb said. “I will get it to them when they need it, and if I’ve got to speed things up, I will take care of that.”

Main­tain­ing that pledge is Transcom’s 1,400-member head­quar­ters staff, which super­vis­es the efforts of 145,000 work­ers world­wide.

Among them is Air Force Lt. Col. Travis Eng­land from the commander’s action group at the 818th Air and Space Oper­a­tions Cen­ter. He explained that the Air Force’s Air Mobil­i­ty Com­mand sup­port mis­sion is plan­ning mis­sions for crews, fil­ing flight plans, check­ing weath­er and notices to air­men, mon­i­tor­ing mis­sions, and look­ing for prob­lems and choke­points to solve poten­tial crises before they hap­pen.

“This isn’t rock­et sci­ence,” he said. “It’s hard­er.”

Air Force 1st Lt. Troy Barnes of the 436th Aer­i­al Port Squadron described the mis­sion at Dover Air Force Base, Del. The base sup­plies 75 per­cent of all car­go through the air tran­sit strate­gic air­lift sys­tem.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chad Hous­ton, a 436th Aer­i­al Port Squadron car­go proces­sor, walked TV view­ers through the pro­ce­dures used to inspect, weigh and pack­age the hun­dreds of pal­lets that arrive at Dover every day for out­bound flights. Air Force Capt. Don­nell Pittman explained how Transcom tracks the mas­sive num­ber of pal­lets mov­ing through its sys­tem with radio fre­quen­cy iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tags.

“On any giv­en day, we’ll have approx­i­mate­ly 600 tons of car­go. That’s a lot of stuff out there in the sys­tem, and that’s a lot of cus­tomers want­i­ng to know where their stuff is,” he said. “So every sin­gle pal­let will have an RF ID tag.”

Once pack­ag­ing is com­plet­ed, car­go is stored in a state-of-the-art ware­house, orga­nized by des­ti­na­tion, the nar­ra­tor explained. A full plane­load can be retrieved and ready to ship with­in two hours.

Just before depar­ture time, the crew uses vehi­cles called pay­load­ers to move the car­go to stag­ing docks. Each pay­loader can car­ry up to 60,000 pounds and load sev­en pal­lets at a time.

At the stag­ing docks, the crews group the pal­lets to ensure the best use of space aboard the air­craft. They load the hulk­ing car­go air­craft to ensure not a sin­gle inch of space is wast­ed.

Air Force Senior Air­man Louis Fer­rara said there’s a lot of grat­i­fi­ca­tion in know­ing how quick­ly the car­go he helps to move will arrive where it’s need­ed in the com­bat the­ater.

“If I upload this piece of car­go that has enough full-up armor kit for a Humvee on Fri­day, on that next Mon­day that per­son over in Afghanistan will be putting it onto his Humvee and dri­ve it away safe­ly because of the pal­let I uploaded for him,” he said. “We are very grate­ful for every­thing that we can do to help the peo­ple who are over there fight­ing for us every day.”

While air trans­port is the fastest way to move equip­ment and sup­plies, Transcom relies on land and sea ship­ments when the timetable allows.

The port at Bal­ti­more is one of the command’s key pack­ag­ing points for ship­ment by sea. There, the “Mod­ern Mar­vels” crew filmed Chi­nook heli­copters being pre­pared for ship­ment, with their 350- to 600-pound rotors removed and stored with­in the air­craft.

From there, it showed the chop­pers being lift­ed by crane aboard the USNS Men­don­ca oper­at­ing for the Navy’s Mil­i­tary Sealift Com­mand and low­ered into envi­ron­men­tal­ly con­trolled car­go hold.

“Mod­ern Mar­vels” opened the Transcom seg­ment of its show describ­ing “one mas­sive glob­al pack­ag­ing effort [that] lit­er­al­ly takes an Army to get the job done.”

“In fact,” it con­tin­ued, “it takes an Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Meet the men of women of U.S. Trans­porta­tion Com­mand -– U.S. Transcom for short. Their gar­gan­tu­an task is to pack and ship every sin­gle item required for all branch­es of the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary.”

The entire pro­gram is post­ed on the His­to­ry Channel’s Mod­ern Mar­vels web­site.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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