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Operating a Central Receiving and Shipping Point

The experience of Logistics Task Force 548 in Iraq demonstrated that an inland cargo transfer company is well suited to run a central receiving and shipping point.

The central receiving and shipping point (CRSP) at Logistics Support Area (LSA) Anaconda was established to facilitate rapid onward movement of equipment and containers deploying to and redeploying from northern and central Iraq. The idea of a CRSP operating on the battlefield is new, but the concept is consistent with inland terminal operations and cargo transfer company (CTC) operations as discussed in Chapter 4 and Appendix C, respectively, of FM 55–1, Transportation Operations. CRSPs were established throughout Iraq to help control the flow of deploying and redeploying equipment by maintaining accountability and in-transit visibility (ITV). By having a central location where units can turn in equipment and containers before redeploying, the possibility of losing cargo during transit to its final destination is minimized. Mainly, CRSPs help answer the question many units ask: Where’s my stuff?

Based on the experience of Logistics Task Force 548 at LSA Anaconda during Operation Iraqi Freedom 05–07, a CRSP yard must consider eight factors in order to be successful: terrain, container lanes, rolling stock lanes, ramps, lighting, perimeter security, command and control, and ITV.


The planners of a CRSP must make an assessment that takes into account the amount of equipment to be throughput that will be processed in the area of responsibility. They also must allow for future development and expansion of the CRSP. The surface characteristics of the CRSP must be taken into account. The CSRP’s surface must be able to accommodate the weight of a 120,000-pound piece of equipment, such as a rough-terrain container handler (RTCH). During the rainy season in Iraq, it is not uncommon to have a RTCH sink 2 or more feet in the mud. This becomes dangerous when moving a 50,000-pound container. To improve the terrain at LSA Anaconda’s CRSP, more than 600 truckloads of gravel were spread over the entire area to create a hard surface on which to operate. This significantly improved the capabilities of RTCHs and facilitated all of the yard’s operations.

Container Lanes

According to the Container Management Support Tool, the U.S. Government has paid over $500 million in detention fees on carrier-owned containers since the start of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. [The Container Management Support Tool is an integrated, Web-based theater container management database developed by the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.] Every container moving north from the port in Kuwait into Iraq eventually must be retrograded south. A detention fee is charged to the Government for each carrier-owned container that is not returned to the carrier within a 10-day grace period. Because the detention fees charged for retaining carrier-owned containers in Iraq result in large costs to the Army, units exchange any carrier-owned and -leased containers they have for Government-owned containers at the empty container collection point at the CRSP. The CRSP then sends all carrier-owned or -leased containers to Kuwait, where they are returned to the company that owns them. This practice eliminates detention fees.

As units deploy and redeploy, their containers begin or end their movements at a CRSP. A yard must establish lanes to identify unit containers. One technique is to establish two lanes—one for inbound and one for outbound containers. All containers that have completed the final leg of their movement or are to be picked up at that CRSP are staged in the inbound lane. Containers that will continue their onward movement are staged in the outbound lane. This creates an organized format that allows for quick inventory and location of containers when they are scheduled for pickup or onward movement.

Rolling Stock Lanes

Rolling stock is treated the same as containers, with the exception that the outbound lane for rolling stock requires a much larger area. The vehicles are staged longer in the outbound lane because of the amount of time it takes for assets to be allocated for onward movement. Vehicles also require more room when they are staged in lanes. During a brigade combat team relief in place, a large volume of the unit’s equipment is staged in the yard while theater transportation assets are allocated. After the theater transportation assets move the deploying unit’s equipment north, they will backhaul the redeploying unit’s equipment.

During the transition of the 3d Infantry Division and the 4th Infantry Division in January 2005, over 4,200 pieces of rolling stock and containers were loaded and unloaded at LSA Anaconda’s CRSP yard. This demonstrated why it is extremely important to have a yard large enough to accommodate such large numbers of vehicles.


Most rolling stock arrives at a CRSP on flatbed trailers. The quickest way to unload rolling stock is by using ramps. One lesson learned in Iraq is that CRSPs should have ramps with two different heights. The height of military M871 (30 feet long) and M872 (40 feet long) trailers can be as much as 10 inches less than that of contractor flatbed trailers. If a CRSP only has a ramp for military-height trailers, dunnage can be used to make up the height difference so that vehicles can be safely loaded onto and unloaded from contractor trailers.


Convoys often move at night, so the ability of CRSPs to conduct 24-hour operations is critical. When heavy equipment transporters enter the yard at night—and the tactical situation permits—lights are used at the ramp area and at the places in the yard where roll-on/roll-off procedures are used. Roll-on and roll-off are the most dangerous cargo transfer functions occurring in the yard. Without proper lighting, a risk assessment must be conducted to justify the risk of conducting roll-on/roll-off operations at night.

Perimeter Security

It is very important to have the capability to secure unit equipment and containers staged at a CRSP. When equipment or containers enter the yard, the officer in charge of the CRSP is accountable for them. Without some type of system in place to secure the perimeter, it is possible for equipment to be stolen or stripped for parts. Before a fence was erected at LSA Anaconda’s CRSP, concertina wire and jersey barriers were placed around the perimeter. This was not the ideal deterrent, but it helped significantly to improve security.

Another approach to consider is establishing an entry control point (ECP), where personnel confirm what enters and exits the yard by communicating with the CRSP operations center by radio. The ECP also plays an important role in maintaining accountability and organizing cargo in the yard. When a convoy enters the CRSP, the ECP notifies the operations center to send an escort to stage the convoy in the appropriate staging area. It also stops traffic on the road outside the CRSP when a convoy leaves, allowing all convoy elements to depart the yard together. Combining an ECP, fence, and lighting creates a secure and functional CRSP yard.

Command and Control

A well-established, functional operations center is the heart of the CRSP and must serve as the hub for all CRSP activity. All cargo entering and exiting the yard is processed and accounted for at this central location. The operations center must be immediately visible to the customer when he enters the yard. The customer, a unit representative, or the convoy commander should not have to search the yard looking for the operations center. The ECP personnel are responsible for directing everyone entering the yard to the center.

Most accounting for equipment takes place in the operations center. A database maintained there lists all loaded and unloaded equipment. Equipment staged in the yard is verified, ensuring that it is properly labeled with a transportation movement request (TMR) and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. As a convoy uploads cargo, three copies of the TMR and manifest are given to the convoy commander. The information he receives identifies exactly what is being moved and where it is going. When the convoy arrives at its final destination, a copy of the documentation is given to the receiving CRSP’s operations center.

Communication is a must when establishing command and control. Most CRSP yards are large, and the need for communication with the yard noncommissioned officer (NCO) in charge and key personnel is crucial. A CRSP must have communications equipment for the operations center, the ECP, and yard personnel. This greatly increases efficiency during uploading and downloading.

In-Transit Visibility

Movement control teams (MCTs) issue and track TMRs for all equipment moving into and out of Iraq. As CRSP personnel receive, inventory, and stage equipment, they verify the accuracy of assigned TMRs. This is the first step in creating ITV for the customer when he drops off his equipment.

Each CRSP must read and write RFID tags. Every piece of equipment leaving the CRSP must have an RFID tag. At the very least, the tag should have license plate data. Not every unit has the capability or know-how to write RFID tags; however, having an RFID writing capability in place at every CRSP yard would allow both the customer and CRSP personnel to find equipment during transit.

Typical CRSP Operations

Cargo arrival. When a convoy arrives to load or unload cargo, it is escorted immediately to a designated staging area. At a minimum, the CRSP yard should be set up to accommodate the staging of three separate 25-vehicle convoys simultaneously. This does not mean that all three must be worked on simultaneously, but there must be room to stage them. This is an important factor to consider during the CRSP planning phase, when a lot large enough for this type of operation must be selected.

Documentation. After a convoy is staged and the convoy commander has reported to the operations center with documentation for the load, a team is assigned to receive or unload the cargo and direct it, based on the documentation, to designated areas. This is where the lanes established in the yard come into play. As each piece is unloaded, an inventory is conducted. The information gathered includes cargo type, model, serial number, bumper number, container size, container number, and RFID tag number. This information then is confirmed with the TMR and manifest accompanying the equipment. After all data are verified, a signed copy of the TMR is handed over to the convoy commander for his records. All of the data on the equipment received are then entered into a database for inventory and tracking purposes. To ensure accuracy, a physical inventory of the yard is conducted daily to confirm the information in the database.

Cargo loading and departure. When a convoy arrives at the CRSP to upload cargo, it is processed in the same manner as a convoy downloading cargo. The convoy is staged, and the convoy commander reports to the operations center with documentation of the cargo he is moving. After verifying that the cargo is in the yard, a team is sent out to load the equipment. As the equipment is loaded, another team conducts an inventory based on the TMR. The team verifies vehicle serial numbers and container numbers. After the convoy is completely loaded and staged for departure, the convoy commander is given three copies of the TMR and manifest of the load. The CRSP representative annotates the convoy’s name, unit, and convoy number into the database for future reference.

ITV. Every day, a CRSP sends a report to the Highway Traffic Division, MCTs, corps support groups, and sustainment brigades to provide them with visibility of all equipment in the yard. This report is used for planning future convoys that will move the cargo at the CRSP to its final destinations. The report describes equipment and containers that entered the yard in the last 24 hours, equipment in the yard still awaiting transport, and equipment that left the yard in the last 24 hours. This report also acts as another form of ITV. Units can track their cargo by the reports sent up to the corps support command (COSCOM) that are posted on the COSCOM Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) Web site. Each of the nine CRSP yards in Iraq sends its inventory reports to the COSCOM daily, which enables customers to track their equipment using current information. If customers without SIPRNet capabilities are looking for their equipment, they can go to their CRSP and have them pull up each of the other CRSPs’ reports to see where it might be.

Another report used by a CRSP is the Container Management Support Tool, which is used to track containers as they move within the theater. As a container enters or leaves a CRSP yard, the container number is updated with its current location or destination on the Container Management Support Tool Web site. This is an ongoing process since containers are constantly moving.

Training. Properly trained Soldiers and materials-handling equipment (MHE) operators are essential to conducting successful CRSP operations. In Iraq, some of the CRSP yards are supported by a CTC platoon, while others are augmented by contractors and Soldiers with varied military occupational specialties (MOSs). A CTC has all the muscle and equipment to make this mission run efficiently.

Inland Cargo Transfer Company

Under its current modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE), a CTC has the ability to conduct both port and inland operations. In fiscal year 2007, the CTC MTOE will change to focus CTC operations away from seaports. This is where the concept of an inland cargo transfer company (ICTC) originates. CTCs have Soldiers trained to operate the MHE and ITV equipment needed at a CRSP. The ICTC will operate only inside a theater of operations.

ICTC suitability for CRSP operations. When the first CRSP in Iraq was established in December 2004, it was operated by an MCT with contractor support. As the CRSP developed, it became obvious that an MCT did not have the personnel or muscle to sustain the requirements demanded by a high operating tempo. While an MCT is composed predominantly of transportation management coordinators (MOS 88N), an ICTC has several different types of trained Soldiers, making it the perfect unit to operate a CRSP. For these reasons, a CTC platoon assumed the operation of LSA Anaconda’s CRSP in December 2005.

ICTC personnel breakdown. The ICTC consists of two line platoons, one maintenance platoon, and one headquarters platoon. The line platoons include Soldiers with three MOSs: 88H, 88M, and 88N. Motor transport operators (MOS 88M) can operate nearly every piece of rolling stock entering the yard during loading and unloading procedures. Cargo specialists (MOS 88H) are required to operate forklifts and RTCHs; they load and unload all containers with RTCHs and use forklifts to transload small rolling stock and pallets.

The main function of a transportation management coordinator is to communicate with the MCTs and the Highway Traffic Division. Both agencies identify which TMRs are loaded on convoys. It is the 88N’s job to ensure that convoys are loaded with the appropriate TMR and that all documentation is handed over to the convoy commander. The 88N is accountable for every piece of cargo in the yard. He also must focus on writing RFID tags for equipment that arrives at the CRSP without such tags. As the 88Ms and 88Hs are the muscle to operate the yard, the 88Ns are responsible for the operational functions of the yard. It is not uncommon to cross-train these personnel to maximize everyone’s potential and ability.

ICTC equipment breakdown.
The equipment in an ICTC platoon varies slightly from that in a CTC platoon. The ICTC platoon has eight load-handling systems (LHSs) and four container-handling units (CHUs), compared to two LHSs and one CHU in the CTC platoon. Both CTC and ICTC platoons have four RTCHs, but the ICTC platoon has eight 10,000-pound variable-reach, rough-terrain forklifts compared to the four in the CTC platoon. Each still has four 4,000-pound forklifts and two yard-dog trucks. The ICTC has the ability not only to operate the CRSP but also to assist local units by delivering and picking up their cargo. This minimizes the amount of cargo remaining in the yard for extended periods of time while the owning unit tries to coordinate for local assets to assist them in moving it.

The significant difference between the two MTOEs is the loss of a 40-ton crane that the ICTC is no longer authorized. The crane is a valuable asset during CRSP operations. A considerable amount of rolling stock needs to be downloaded and uploaded by crane. Because of the threat posed to Army convoys by improvised explosive devices, many battle-damaged vehicles must be uploaded using a crane. Removing the 40-ton crane from the ICTC MTOE means that an ICTC must coordinate with engineer units or contractors to complete its mission. The LSA Anaconda CRSP moved approximately 20 to 25 pieces of cargo by crane each week; without a crane on site, the time required to complete uploading and downloading equipment increased dramatically. Further consideration should be given to the need for the 40-ton crane before the official MTOE for the ICTC is approved.

The capabilities offered by a CRSP are very important in the overall planning and establishment of an inland operation. After 3 years in Iraq, the Army’s leaders are still fine-tuning this concept. With the help of each CRSP officer and NCO in charge, the lessons learned are helping to develop a plan for the next operation. Ensuring that an ICTC platoon operates a CRSP yard is the first step toward ensuring success—getting the right equipment, to the right unit, at the right location and time. We at the 2d Platoon of the 21st Cargo Transfer Company experienced great success, and we hope that, by using our template, others might enjoy the same success

First Lieutenant Bart S. Lajoie is a platoon leader in the 21st Cargo Transfer Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion, at Fort Lewis, Washington. While deployed at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, he was the officer in charge of the central receiving and shipping point from December 2005 to October 2006. He is a graduate of the Officer Candidate School and the Transportation Officer Basic Course and currently is enrolled in the degree completion program at the University of Washington at Tacoma.