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‘The Surge’

Between February and April 2004, an Army-Navy task force, Task Force 385, supervised the movement of equipment through the port of Ash Shuaiba, Kuwait, during the transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom I to Operation Iraqi Freedom II. This transition, called “the surge,” generated the largest, most rapid movement of military equipment in modern history. The Army component of the task force was the 385th Transportation Battalion, an Army Reserve unit from Tacoma, Washington. The Navy component was Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force (NAVELSF) Forward Alpha, which was made up of Navy Reservists from Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia.

Task Force 385 was the first Army-Navy task force to be formed at the tactical level. The organizations that were involved had to quickly overcome differences in military culture and language in order to work together. One of the challenges faced by the task force was the fact that the Navy personnel were working with Army equipment. To address this situation, NAVELSF personnel trained on Army equipment at Fort Eustis, Virginia, before deploying to Kuwait.

Task force leaders, soldiers, and sailors often worked 12- to 16-hour days to marshal, stage, and load vessels. At the peak of the surge, four large, medium-speed, roll-on-roll-off vessels and one fast sealift ship were berthed at the same time. This was the first time in history that so many vessels of those types were in the same port at the same time.

During the surge, Task Force 385 managed the movement of 211,000 pieces of equipment through the port. The task force loaded 37 of the 95 vessels that berthed there. By the end of the surge, the task force had moved 8 of 10 Army divisions, 4 coalition brigades, and 1 Marine expeditionary force.

Individual initiative and commitment were the keys to Task Force 385’s success. ALOG

The Army Logistician staff thanks First Lieutenant Brian H. Young and Captain Elizabeth D’Ambrosia of the 385th Transportation Battalion in Tacoma, Washington, for providing the information and photos for this article.