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COB Speicher CRSP and Container Operations

For 15 months, I was the officer in charge of the central receiving and shipping point (CRSP) and empty container collection point (ECCP) at Contingency Operating Base (COB) Speicher, Iraq. The two yards were run by a 41-person detachment. COB Speicher’s logistics system was different from the other main hubs in Iraq, and this article describes the techniques used there during Operation Iraqi Freedom 07–09.

CRSP and ECCP Overview
Most CRSP yards service customers shipping full containers, rolling stock, pallets, and so forth. Anything, except for hazardous material items such as ammunition, moving intratheater by any ground mode goes to the CRSP. The CRSP does not usually service supply support activities (SSAs), although sometimes one or two containers slip in. Instead, the joint distribution center services SSAs and serves as a pallet-building location for all air shipments.

Most COBs keep their ECCP separate from the CRSP yard. The ECCP’s sole purpose is to collect empty containers from customers and activities in order to get them back into circulation. With approval from Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC–I), the ECCP will also distribute containers to units for use as permanent storage and for redeployment.

COB Speicher has both a CRSP and an ECCP. All containers at COB Speicher, empty or full, go to the ECCP. All noncontainerized cargo traveling by ground mode goes to the CRSP. Since the Army has no formal guidance on the setup and function of a CRSP, this configuration is not necessarily right or wrong, but the technique has worked well at COB Speicher. That detatchment found that the most efficient setup was to have the yards right next to each other. This made tracking easier and cut down on overall manpower needs.

Speicher CRSP

Operations at the Speicher CRSP were simple. When a convoy came in to drop something off, the convoy commander had a transportation movement request (TMR) with all the information needed for processing the cargo. The TMR included the sender’s and recipient’s contact information in case of a problem with the shipment and stated the load’s contents, origin, destination, and any special instructions. After the CRSP noncommissioned officer in charge verified that the cargo matched up with the TMR, he signed for the load from the driver and offloaded the cargo.

When a convoy came to pick up a load, the convoy commander brought a copy of the TMR for the shipment that the unit would be receiving. The cargo was uploaded, the convoy commander signed the original TMR for all the equipment, and a copy was made for record. When an on-post unit wanted to pick up a shipment, it submitted a local TMR and signed for the load, just as a convoy moving cargo intratheater would.

For storing cargo, it really did not matter how the yard was laid out as long as the cargo was stored according to TMR so that all equipment from each TMR was kept together. This expedited service when somebody came to pick up a TMR, and it helped with inventories.
Although the convoy commanders always signed for all the cargo and equipment they were loading or offloading, CRSP personnel did a 100-percent inventory once a day to ensure accountability. It was much easier to go through 24-hours worth of activity if a discrepancy was found than to wait for an investigating officer to show up 6 months later.

CRSP Security

Security was a big issue when we first arrived. CRSP personnel were responsible for accounting for the major end items and taking reasonable steps to deter pilferage. However, items contained inside vehicles were not the responsibility of the yard personnel; if a unit chose to secure sensitive items in its vehicles, it did so at its own risk.
When the detachment first arrived at COB Speicher, only one side of the yard had a fence. Because of the lack of security in the yard, one truck had so many parts stolen from it that the vehicle was turned in for reset. Other units also tried to drive their vehicles out of the yard under cover of darkness. To fix this, we found concertina wire at the dump to fence in the rest of the yard so that the CRSP had only one entrance. At first glance, one might think having one entrance that doubled as an exit would lead to a traffic issue, but this never presented a problem. The items being moved through the CRSP were only a portion of all cargo shipped in theater. A busy day was three large convoys (with 30-plus vehicles each).

Speicher ECCP

The ECCP was a little more complicated to operate than the CRSP. This was mostly due to the extra management of containers at theater level and the maintenance requirements of the RT–240 rough-terrain container handler (RTCH). (A quick note on the RTCH: Everyone wants to use your RTCH at some point. They dream up all kinds of stuff for it to do, but the only thing the RTCH can do is pick up containers and empty flat racks. It is not rated or designed for anything else.)

The ECCP operation was straightforward. Convoys dropped off and picked up containers in the same way they did at the CRSP. The only difference was that, until “processing” was complete, we kept containers that were being dropped off separated from containers already in the yard. After processing was complete, we put them away in the yard.

Container Processing

Processing is the paperwork side of a container yard operation. The Department of Defense has a system, called the Container Management Support Tool (CMST), for tracking every container the military uses. This system tracks a multitude of data about a container after it is entered into the system. Every container that comes into the yard is checked into the yard, or “ingated,” using CMST. This gives MNC–I visibility of every container in theater. When a CMST operator ingates a container, he can see a lot of information about the history of the container in addition to the information listed on the TMR. This information is important to the ECCP because only containers with certain ownership codes can be issued to units requesting empty containers for storage or intratheater shipment.

Occasionally, containers that are not in the system turn up, but it is easy to add them to CMST. It is mandatory that all containers be inventoried monthly and the results entered into CMST. The unprocessed containers are stored separately because occasionally the information in CMST will not correspond with the container on the ground. Not having to search the yard for the container makes it easier to resolve any discrepancies.

The layout of a container yard should be based on the amount of space available and container traffic. With limited space, storing containers as shown in Figure 1, at left, is optimal. It takes longer for the RTCH operators to store containers stacked in this manner, and putting a container in an empty slot takes a lot of skill. Placement as shown in Figure 2, at right, is much easier. If you have the time to spare and the right equipment, choose the first method every time because it forces operators to become more proficient.

Words of Advice for CRSP and ECCP Leaders

Never let anyone into any container once it is in your possession. It is okay to say no to someone who accidentally packed his sleeping bag in the redeployment container. Our policy was no one opens a container without a memo from our brigade.

Do not allow anyone to drop off anything for shipment without a TMR in hand taking that equipment off post. Do not listen to a promise that a TMR will be done as soon as they leave the yard. It is doubtful you will ever see them again. As far as they are concerned, it is your problem now.

As soon as you get on ground, find the point of contact for the support operations transportation shops that are assigned to pull stuff from your yards. Sometimes, TMRs get lost in the system and pieces of equipment will sit in the yard indefinitely.

The separate CRSP, ECCP, and joint distribution center worked well; however, the operation is changing for the better. A new corps distribution center is near completion that will include the CRSP, ECCP, and joint distribution center. It will be located adjacent to the movement control team to allow customers a one-stop terminal for all their transportation needs.

First Lieutenant Cody J. Wheaton is assigned to the 372d Inland Cargo Transfer Company. He was the central receiving and shipping point and empty container collection point officer-in-charge at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, when he wrote this article. He holds a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Utah and is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course, the Airborne School, and the Ranger School.