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MDMP at the SDDC:
The Art and Science
of Terminal Operations

According to Field Manual (FM) 5–0, Army Planning and Orders Production, military planning is both a science and an art. In the field of terminal operations, this means using existing doctrine (the science) to create plans and orders capable of safely accomplishing the Army’s deployment and redeployment missions. This must be accomplished while accounting for myriad possible contingencies and branches (the art). The 842d Transportation Battalion in Beaumont, Texas, has turned that understanding into practice through the military decisionmaking process (MDMP).

The MDMP is an established and proven analytical planning system. According to FM 5–0, it includes seven steps (see below). Recently, the 842d Transportation Battalion had the chance to place the MDMP into action while supporting the deployment of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment (3d ACR) from Fort Hood, Texas. The 842d adapted the MDMP to best suit its operational environment. The final output of the process is an executable order that enables the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) to support deploying or redeploying units in a manner consistent with the best interests of the Government.

Mission Analysis

The 842d initiated a deliberate planning process for the deployment of the 3d ACR in the summer of 2007 by visiting with regimental and installation representatives at Fort Hood. At that time, the 842d received the mission requirements and the regiment’s deployment timeline. Mission analysis commenced immediately with the consideration of rail and truck requirements and labor needs. The daily operations meeting provided a forum for the staff to conduct mission analysis and then develop and discuss possible courses of action (COAs). Personnel had to plan for the arrival of over 2,100 pieces of cargo (including nearly 500 tracked vehicles and 34 aircraft) and the staging, documentation, and uploading of the equipment to vessels. The unit expected to receive eight full trains’ worth of cargo and considerable commercial line haul vehicles with 3d ACR equipment.

During the mission analysis, the 842d incorporated composite risk management by developing a risk assessment of the operation. Once the battalion commander approved the risk assessment, the unit safety officer forwarded it to the 597th Transportation Group at Fort Eustis, Virginia, for review. In the course of the mission analysis, the staff listed key facts and assumptions; specified, implied, and essential tasks; and constraints. The type and quantity of equipment were known facts, and it was assumed that these numbers would not significantly change.

One major constraint was the unavailability of the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas. The 842d determined that the high volume of commercial cargo that would be present in the Port of Corpus Christi during that time would leave insufficient space available to receive, stage, and prepare the 3d ACR’s aircraft. As a result, all COAs that involved Corpus Christi were screened out of the process. Planners assumed that all cargo could be accommodated in Beaumont, Texas, because the Port of Beaumont’s commercial operations would not impede the deployment operations and sufficient labor would be available.

COA Development

COAs were then developed that would enable the battalion to stage all cargo in a manner that best facilitated safety, accountability, and ease of upload without conflicting with the port’s commercial requirements. According to FM 5–0, all COAs must be feasible, acceptable, suitable, distinguishable, and complete.

Planners compared the COAs and a preliminary plan and developed a concept of support for each COA. Key outputs during the mission analysis phase included pre-stow plans, a matrix warning order, and the publication of the commander’s critical information requirements (see charts below). The planners then wargamed the chosen COA.

Wargaming the COA

FM 5–0 specifies eight steps in wargaming (see below). The 842d Transportation Battalion used a map board with pieces. The unit’s operations officer was responsible for selecting the wargaming technique to be used in the exercise. He chose the “box method,” which is a detailed analysis of a critical area of the battlefield—in this case, the Port of Beaumont.

The wargame included all relevant staff members, including the battalion commander, executive officer, operations officer, chief of operations, transportation officer, marine cargo specialists, and security manager. The 3d ACR’s regimental transportation officer and unit movement officers from the various 3d ACR subordinate units also were present. Representatives from the stevedore contractor, Ports America, Inc.; the Fort Hood Directorate of Logistics port support
activity; the Port of Beaumont; and the Coast Guard were also present.

The operations officer gathered the tools needed for the wargame—specifically, the relevant staff members, the map board on which the game was conducted, and the game pieces needed to depict equipment and other entities. The map board was a scale drawing of the Port of Beaumont itself, detailing all staging areas, storage areas, and berths.

The battalion staff listed all relevant assumptions, key facts, and decision points. The key decision points included the selection of the vessels to be loaded and the decision by the 3d ACR on whether any of their aircraft would be deployed by strategic air assets. Key evaluation criteria included safety, feasibility, and expediency.

The unit also incorporated composite risk management into the wargame by including its approved risk assessment and considering possible accident and reaction contingencies. Safety is one of the key operational considerations, so the unit’s safety officer was present to provide feedback at each turn.

The commander of the 842d provided the overall direction for the wargame and served as its referee. This wargame took the battalion through its planned COA shift by shift. At each turn, representatives from terminal operations, traffic management, safety, and physical security stated their actions. As appropriate, the commander of the 842d then proposed possible reactions based on contingencies, such as weather. The staff then offered counteractions.

To record the results of the wargame, the operations officer produced a synchronization matrix on the overhead projector and recorded the results of the wargame turn by turn. At the end of the wargame, the commander determined that the chosen COA was feasible and approved it. The operations officer then produced a matrix order and concept of support containing the completed plan and published it for all relevant parties.

MDMP Advantages

The MDMP, particularly the wargaming phase, was an effective tool for the 842d because it allowed the unit to better execute branch and sequel plans. Often, during the course of the wargame, staff members noted that tentative plans had been developed to deal with various contingencies. Then, at the end of the wargame, unit personnel were able to finally say, “yes, let’s do this if that happens.” The wargame was also useful because it allowed terminal operations and traffic management personnel to work together and walked everyone through the entire operation. It enabled the unit to forecast and anticipate friction points and properly allocate resources.

Since planning support operations does not take place in a vacuum, the MDMP was ideal because it incorporated Coast Guard, Port Authority, and other non-Governmental agencies into the process.

Feedback from Department of the Army civilian employees was almost universally positive, and nearly all looked forward to the opportunity to participate in the planning process.

The MDMP enabled the 842d to formulate the best possible COA for deploying the 3d ACR safely and successfully. The battalion plans to continue applying MDMP principles in all operations as it holds fast to being “First in Warfighter Support” throughout the Gulf Coast region.

Lieutenant Colonel Marshall N. Ramsey is the commander of the 842d Transportation Battalion at Beaumont, Texas. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course, the Ordnance Officer Advanced Course, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Joint Forces Staff College.

Major Ryon F. Adams is a student at the Army Command and General Staff College. He was the operations officer for the 842d Transportation Battalion when he co-wrote this article. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Case Western Reserve University and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from the University of Houston Law Center. He is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.