In the Army Transportation Corps, the motto "Nothing happens until something moves," is common. Both tactically and strategically, transportation support units play a critical role in moving cargo, vehicles, and other necessary equipment forward into the fight.
After spending the last decade engaged in combat operations, the leaders of the 82d Airborne Division wanted to train their units to conduct the basics of full-spectrum operations. To support this goal, the division conducted a joint operational access exercise (JOAX) from 9 to 16 February 2011. The exercise allowed the division's paratroopers and supporting units to train together in a weeklong, large-scale joint training exercise.
|A generator mechanic from the 119th Inland Cargo Transfer Company maintenance platoon repairs a generator supporting
the 11th Transportation Battalion's mobile kitchen trailer at the intermediate staging base at Mackall Army Airfield, North Carolina, during the joint operational access exercise.
Support From the 11th Transportation Battalion
The 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, established an intermediate staging base (ISB) at Mackall Army Airfield, North Carolina, to provide key logistics support to the 82d Airborne Division for the JOAX. The battalion was a critical provider of logistics support throughout the exercise.
The JOAX gave the battalion an excellent opportunity to train with personnel from several units, including the 615th Contingency Response Wing from Travis Air Force Base, California; the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element (RPOE) from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; and the 550th Area Support Medical Company from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The latter units joined together to create a logistics task force (LTF) responsible for providing support to the 3d Brigade Combat Team's tactical operations.
To successfully deploy its headquarters staff components and execute the ISB, the 11th Transportation Battalion implemented many implied tasks. The battalion's advance party, composed of the staff components and Soldiers assigned to the headquarters and headquarters detachment and the 119th Inland Cargo Transfer Company (ICTC), arrived on site 7 February to establish a forward operating base (FOB) adjacent to Mackall Army Airfield.
Once the FOB was up and running, the 119th ICTC provided security while the battalion staff began 24-hour operations. Staff components assumed mayoral duties for the ISB, which included providing logistics and personnel situation reports to the 3d Expeditionary Sustainment Command and executing sanitation, feeding, and fueling operations for the Air Force and the attached units of the LTF.
|Specialists from the 11th Transportation Battalion S–6 shop install a Movement Tracking System transceiver on top of a high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle at Mackall Army Airfield during the joint operational access exercise.
Help From the Air Force
Throughout the exercise, Air Force assets flew cargo, vehicles, equipment, and personnel from nearby Pope Air Force Base to the ISB. Once on site, the 11th Transportation Battalion, which acted as the forward element of the 3d Expeditionary Sustainment Command, ran 24-hour operations in its tactical operations center, tracking the movement of all logistics assets throughout the battle.
C–17 Globemaster and C–130 Hercules aircraft simultaneously dropped paratroopers from the 82d Airborne Division onto a nearby tactical objective, resulting in a full-on assault. At the same time, back at Mackall Army Airfield, cargo and equipment continuously arrived and were offloaded by Air Force personnel.
"An exercise such as the JOAX gives the Army and Air Force an excellent opportunity to train together and create a strong partnership," said Major Alton Williams, executive officer of the 11th Transportation Battalion. "The result of this partnership is the seamless execution of operations when faced with a real-world situation."
Supplying the Paratroopers
Once the items were on the ground at Mackall Army Airfield, Soldiers of the 689th RPOE sorted and digitally logged all cargo using the in-transit visibility tracking system. After the logging and sorting of cargo was completed, Soldiers staged the supplies at a nearby distribution center to await allocation to the end users, paratroopers from the 82d Airborne Division.
The needs of the warfighters ranged from food and water to specific types of ammunition, equipment, and military vehicles. These needs drove the priority of battlefield distribution.
"This meant accounting for 300 personnel, managing 35 flights in and out of the airfield, accounting for cargo consisting of 55 pallets [and] 79 pieces of rolling stock, and accounting for 133 personnel either boarding or exiting the aircraft at any given time," said Captain Malaya Simmons, the day-shift battle captain of the ISB. "That's a lot of moving pieces."
At the culmination of the JOAX, flights landed on the airfield every 30 minutes nonstop for 18 hours.
Aside from tracking flights, cargo, and personnel, Simmons noted that the battalion's dining facility staff prepared 3,500 meals using the Army's mobile kitchen trailer. The battalion was able to provide life and logistics support to combat arms units forward in the fight while simultaneously supporting and securing itself.
While delivering logistics support to the 82d Airborne Division, LTF Soldiers and staff continued to conduct training focused on strengthening Soldiers' military occupational specialties, warrior tasks, and battle drill skills.
The JOAX provided an ideal training platform for the 11th Transportation Battalion, a terminal operations battalion, to command and control an LTF in support of 82d Airborne Division operations.
"The ISB mission enabled us to perform our core mission of command and control of attached units employed in terminal operations, to include seaport, aerial port, railhead, and joint logistics over the shore," said Lieutenant Colonel John Broomhead, the 11th Transportation Battalion's commander. "This is part of the battalion's progressive training strategy to shape our JLOTS culminating training event, Operation Fall Trident, in September 2011."