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Packing the Largest Shipment of the Iraq War

Members of the 841st Transportation Battalion and 276th Transportation Detachment (Automated Cargo Documentation) loaded and tagged the largest single shipment of the Global War on Terrorism and the Iraq War in late April 2010. Equipment converged on APM Terminals Virginia in Portsmouth, Virginia, by road and rail to prepare for its transfer to the Middle East. The massive shipment, totaling 1,191 pieces of equipment, consisted of containerized cargo and rolling stock of the 2d and 3d Brigade Combat Teams, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

The 276th Transportation Detachment (Automated Cargo Documentation), 11th Transportation Battalion, located at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia, tracks and documents cargo and provides terminal services in fixed-port or logistics over-the-shore operations.

The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) called on the detachment because of its ability to deploy rapidly and its self-sustaining personnel and equipment composition. SDDC also called on the 841st Transportation Battalion, a movement control battalion from Charleston, South Carolina, that is designed to synchronize surface cargo movements and provide traffic management and single port management for the Department of Defense (DOD). The 276th and 841st have worked together on various missions on the eastern seaboard, including movements out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia; and Charleston.

The 597th Transportation Group at Fort Eustis, Virginia, coordinated the operation, which involved “stuffing” 40-foot shipping containers with smaller quadruple and triple containers and placing intrusion-detection radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on each 40-foot container for shipment.

Setting Up Shop
Soldiers of the 276th Transportation Detachment and 841st Transportation Battalion entered APM Terminals Virginia early on the morning of 26 April and made their way to the receiving point of the Army shipment. Soldiers began to set up their equipment and prep their rosters and technical equipment while they waited for the arrival of the first piece.

The 276th made its deployable operations center (DPOC) the central office and information center for the operation. Key personnel and technical equipment filled the DPOC and provided unity of command and a central location for information gathering and recording. For 15 days straight, equipment poured into the terminal and the 841st and 276th worked together to organize, track, stuff, and tag the equipment for onward movement.

The 841st and 276th use Worldwide Port System (WPS) and in-transit visibility (ITV) technology to track and document equipment. WPS allows ocean terminals to account for and track the movement of cargo through a port and document cargo with manifests, transportation control and movement documents, and customs papers. WPS provides regional commanders with the information needed to manage the movement of ocean cargo.

ITV technology is a network of servers, RFID interrogators, and RFID tags. The ITV network developed for DOD is the world’s largest RFID system. The system is designed to increase productivity, reduce cycle times, decrease warfighter wait times, and increase supply confidence while meeting commanders’ needs for total asset visibility.

Tracking the Shipment
During this operation, each piece of equipment and container had its own unique RFID tag. The SAVI Sensor Tag ST–675 provides not only ITV of container locations but also the times, details, and locations of when containers are compromised during shipment. A compromise is anything, including unauthorized container openings and cuts, holes, or punctures, that can disrupt the container’s integrity. Each tag is equipped with temperature, humidity, shock, intrusion, and light sensors. The tag has a c-shaped clamp that allows the electronic components and sensors to be housed inside of the shipping container while only the small antenna casing is exposed to the elements. This design reduces wear and damage to the tag.

The 40-foot containers had their own unique RFID designations, too, with the same type of tag providing an additional tier of visibility. If any tampering or theft occurred during transit, the SDDC as well as commanders would know which equipment was affected because each smaller container tag corresponded with the tag for its parent 40-foot container.

When fully documented and ready for load out, the shipment consisted of 639 quadruple and triple containers loaded into 40-foot containers, 464 pieces of rolling stock, and eighty-eight 20-foot military-owned demountable containers. At the conclusion of the operation, all cargo was tagged, stuffed, accounted for, and manifested for movement overseas to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Captain Kyle P. McNealy is the commander of the 276th Transportation Detachment (Automated Cargo Documentation), 11th Transportation Battalion, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia. He is a signal officer and holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the United States Military Academy. He is a graduate of the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course, the Basic Airborne Course, and the Air Assault Course.

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