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Supporting Immediate Response 2008

As U.S. Army Europe continues to modernize its forces and operations, the 21st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) is leading the effort in transforming logistics operations across Europe. The 21st TSC demonstrated its capabilities with the reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSO&I) process for Immediate Response 2008, a training exercise conducted by the United States, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Armenia outside of Tblisi, Georgia. Immediate Response is an annual, bilateral security cooperation exercise that is focused on interoperability training and is designed to
promote understanding and cooperation among military forces of the United States and its allies.

Soldiers from the 39th Transportation Battalion in Kaiserslautern, Germany, the 14th Transportation Battalion and the 386th and 969th Movement Control Teams (MCTs) in Vicenza, Italy, and the 489th Cargo Transfer Company in Jacksonville, Florida, participated in the exercise. They planned, coordinated, and conducted the first military movement of personnel, equipment, and containers from Italy, Germany, and the continental United States (CONUS) into Georgia, using eastern European railroads and waterways.

The RSO&I process consists of five deployment phases: predeployment activities, movement to the ports of embarkation (POEs), strategic lift, theater reception, and theater onward movement. Each unit deploying to a theater of operations must execute this process every time for both the departure and the return. The movement phase is the sequencing of units to the POE, and the strategic lift phase begins with the departure from the POE and ends with arrival in theater. The reception phase is the arrival of forces at air- and seaports of debarkation (PODs).

The planning process started at the tactical level, with the Southern European Task Force (SETAF) chairing numerous interim progress review meetings. The 21st TSC provided the reachback capabilities to the strategic transportation providers and to the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.

The 21st TSC was responsible for coordinating the movement of over 170 pieces of equipment from various locations around Europe and CONUS and for receiving the equipment in Georgia. The TSC used several seaports of embarkation and a variety of transportation modes, including a rail ferry across the Black Sea. The MCTs synchronized the movement of personnel and equipment over three rail lines to the Vaziani railroad station in Georgia. Multiple commercial carriers played a critical role in the RSO&I process, making it easier to coordinate carriers in several countries.

Moving personnel from various locations around the world to Georgia for Immediate Response 2008 was no easy task. Soldiers from the 386th and 969th MCTs planned and coordinated the transportation for and receipt of over 1,200 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. The 21st TSC also coordinated with the Georgian Ministry of Defense for medical support at the port and railroad station and for the protection of U.S. Soldiers while they unloaded railcars.

The 21st TSC MCTs managed both the rail operations and the aerial port of debarkation, an air terminal where troops, units, military-sponsored personnel, unit equipment, and materiel unloaded. The MCTs ran into normal challenges, such as delayed and canceled flights and lost luggage. Overcoming these challenges, they made the travel an effortless process for the passengers. The MCTs also had to coordinate with the U.S. Embassy, Georgian Ministry of Defense, customs officials, the Georgian Air Force, and the border police to ensure all passengers met host nation customs requirements.

Colonel Charles Maskell, the 21st TSC support operations officer said, “The Georgians have been great teammates from the beginning and throughout the planning conferences. We informed them of our requirements and they quickly identified what capabilities they had to support the mission.”

Army Logistician thanks Major Bryan Woods, deputy public affairs officer, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, for providing the story and photos for this article.