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Moving the Army—Texas Style
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Moving the Army Texas Style

Few Americans are aware of the volume of cargo that is shipped from ports located along the U.S. Gulf Coast from Brownsville, Texas, to Cape Sable, Florida. Some of these ports serve as major Department of Defense transportation nodes for overseas deployment of Army cargo. Two of these nodes are strategic ports located in Texas—the Port of Beaumont and the Port of Corpus Christi. (Designation as a strategic port means that the port management will give priority to military cargo during a contingency.) Almost 40 percent of the Army cargo deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom flows through these two ports.

Although both the Port of Beaumont and the Port of Corpus Christi are container capable, petroleum and break-bulk products constitute most of the cargo shipped from those locations. The Port of Beaumont is home to one of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s (SDDC’s) port-handling battalions, the 842d Transportation Battalion.

A “Hands-On” Job

Part of the 597th Transportation Group in Sunny Point, North Carolina, the 842d Transportation Battalion is a relatively small activity composed of 7 military, 24 civilian, and 2 contractor personnel. The 842d acts as the single port manager for all Gulf Coast port military missions and routinely oversees missions in Pensacola, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; Gulfport, Mississippi; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Houston, Texas. However, most of the action is centered in Beaumont and Corpus Christi.

The Commander of the 842d Transportation Battalion acts as single port manager and works closely with many organizations to meet the requirements of this large area of responsibility. The Military Sealift Command, the Pilots Association, and the port authorities play major roles in vessel operations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Coast Guard, and local police provide force protection. The Directorate of Logistics at Fort Hood, Texas, provides staffing for the Beaumont and Corpus Christi Port Support Activities, which provide onsite logistics support at each port. The 842d also works with each deploying unit’s liaison officer and hundreds of contract stevedores who handle the cargo, drive the vehicles, and secure them in the vessels’ cargo holds.

The single port manager at the strategic port of embarkation is the “go-to guy” for all things related to the cargo deployment phase of a mission, and he is ultimately accountable to each deploying unit for the success of the deployment operation. The 842d takes responsibility for cargo once it enters the port, leaving deploying soldiers free to concentrate on other tasks.

Predeployment Support

The 842d Transportation Battalion takes a proactive role in ensuring that units know what they are doing when they deploy. Before a deployment begins, the 842d visits the units to help them plan and prepare. They conduct seminars and training and participate in exercises and conferences. They consult with unit commanders, division transportation officers, unit movement officers, representatives of installation transportation offices, prospective liaison officers, and port operators in order to begin the process of matching unit requirements with port capabilities. The 842d Commander and selected team members also routinely brief in Unit Movement Officer Courses at Fort Hood and Fort Carson, Colorado.
The battalion has developed a briefing that focuses on the requirements a unit must meet when preparing its cargo for vessel transport and highlights lessons learned from previous missions. This briefing often stimulates a two-way information exchange, which serves as a foundation for planning and minimizes problems later in the mission. The 842d also has developed a Deployment Handbook, complete with visual aids, that is small enough to fit into a soldier’s cargo pocket and contains guidance on preparing cargo for movement to a port.


The 842d has two WARTRACE units—the 1184th Transportation Terminal Battalion in Mobile, Alabama, and the 1192d Transportation Terminal Brigade, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (WARTRACE units are Reserve component units that, because of their special capabilities not found in the Active component, have been aligned with an Active Army unit.) Since many of the SDDC’s capabilities are provided by the Reserve components, these units are essential to the success of the 842d mission and are often called on for support. As a result, these reservists are fully integrated into the 842d’s mission at all levels and are

an extension of its workforce. For example, the 1192d Transportation Terminal Brigade acted as single port manager in January 2003 at Corpus Christi when the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) deployed.

Iraqi Freedom Challenges

When the 842d Transportation Battalion supported the movement of III Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, it faced some unusual challenges. One was to deploy units in force packages. (Deploying units in force packages means maintaining unit integrity throughout the move.) This procedure greatly reduces the amount of time the unit must spend in the assembly area in theater. However, it is a significant departure from the normal practice of maximizing all available square footage on the vessel by staging and calling forward cargo from the staging areas based on cargo type, such as 5-ton trucks or high-mobility, multipurpose, wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs). With force package integrity, each unit’s cargo must be called forward and stowed together, requiring detailed coordination with rail and commercial truck carriers to ensure specific packages are moved on predesignated ships.

The 842d used a large, medium-speed, roll-on-roll-off ship (LMSR), the USNS Bob Hope, for the force package movement of the 1st Cavalry Division. Although using the ship did not reduce the planning and coordination required to make the force package movement work, the ample cargo space of the LMSR made the task easier

Commercial Partners

Since the Port of Beaumont is a commercial port, all cargo at the port must be handled by union labor. Stevedores employed by P&O Ports of Texas provide labor and stevedoring services. Their innovative ramp extension not only speeds loading of equipment such as helicopters but also significantly reduces risk of damage.

The contract stevedores at both the Port of Beaumont and the Port of Corpus Christi demonstrate incredible flexibility in coping with changing mission requirements, which require actions such as moving commercial vessels to free wharf space for military vessels.

The Beaumont team has taken the slogan, “The Power of YES,” as its de facto motto. This motto recognizes that attitude drives the result. With one of the most important jobs in the SDDC, the 842d Transportation Battalion is a linchpin in the logistic train. They will do whatever it takes to remove as much of the burden as possible from the warfighter and support U.S. forces in the fight. ALOG

The Army Logistician staff thanks Donald J. Japalucci, 842d Transportation Battalion Public Affairs Officer, for providing information and photos for this article

Moving the Army—Texas Style
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