By Cynthia Bauer
U.S. Transportation Command
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., July 24, 2015 – A military and civilian joint service team deployed here this week for U.S. Transportation Command's assessment of Joint Task Force Port Opening airport and distribution operations.
The team of about 200 members, from the 821st Contingency Response Group on Travis Air Force Base, California; 690th Rapid Port Opening Element on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; and the Defense Logistics Agency, participated in Turbo Distribution 15-7 here from July 18 through today.
The exercise challenged JTF-PO forces to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief to meet an urgent need, without the necessary logistics infrastructure. The JTF-PO is Transcom's unique global capability that meets that challenge in real-world operations, most recently for Ebola relief efforts in Africa, through Operation Unified Assistance.
Ready to deploy within 12 hours of notification, a JTF-PO aerial port of debarkation forces are among the first forces on the ground to support geographic combatant commanders during initial phases humanitarian or contingency operations, officials said. JTF-PO provides initial port and distribution capabilities, including tracking cargo that arrives into an area of responsibility and distributing those supplies based on priority of need.
Train, Assess Readiness
Army Lt. Col. Adrain Jackson, Transcom’s Joint Exercise Control Group director, said the Turbo Distribution exercises provide JTF-PO component forces the opportunity to train and assess their readiness to conduct operations and provide the best possible support for combatant commanders.
He said the exercises also provide joint force components a snapshot of their ability to perform the JTF-PO mission and what areas need more training to meet Transcom requirements.
"Our Turbo Distribution 15-7 focused on command initiatives from the Transcom commander and Defense Logistics Agency director, with the integration of the DLA Support Team into JTF-PO operations," Jackson said. "Turbo Distribution also helped us with enhancing in-transit visibility capability using the Cargo Movement Operations System, and demonstrating the use of the Expeditionary Tactical Automated Security System."
Turbo Distribution not only shows how well forces can work together for mission accomplishment, it helps Transcom to find ways improve overall JTF-PO operations, officials said.
Defense Logistics Agency Support Team
One improvement to overall operations unique to Turbo Distribution 15-7 was the addition of the Defense Logistics Agency Support Team to bring added capability and expertise to contracting, warehousing and forward node distribution.
Four DST members became part of the joint assessment team, the initial force that determines the DLA laydown for the operations. Their efforts make inroads with international contacts and contracts for such things as warehousing, fuel, food and other goods and services with an eye toward the sustainment of forces that may be called in after the JTF-PO mission is complete.
Stan Olsen, a joint logistics planner for DLA and the agency's representative on the Turbo Distribution Joint Exercise Control Group, said the exercise shows that the addition of the DST to the JTF-PO will be of great benefit.
"The DST here is helping us with a proof of concept to show how we can complement operations, move quickly and bring tremendous capability to combatant commanders to establish vital logistics lifelines," Olsen said. "We see things differently as far as what's needed. For example, we bring warehousing and fuels expertise -- how to get fuels through contracts -- and that may be overlooked in the rush to get the JTF-PO into position. We are in it for the long haul and work to build a foundation for the initial forces that follow on forces can also use."
The value of the joint service team wasn't lost on the exercise JTF-PO commander, Air Force Col. Rhett Champagne, who is the commander of the 821st CRG at Travis Air Force Base.
"There are two CRGs that will share the alert with three RPOEs, so we are going to see each other again and again over a two-year period for any commander that's going to be there,” Champagne said. “You see the same faces so when you actually go out in the field and work together; you know each other's tactics, techniques, procedures, processes."
Building Relationships Among Partners
He described the relationship among the partners as building trust.
"We have different cultures,” Champagne said. “As we begin to understand each other we begin to trust we are all doing the right things ... and makes one team."
Army Maj. Anthony Freda, 690th RPOE commander, was pleased about how his soldiers worked within the joint environment and how well they worked under field conditions.
"I've been an infantryman for over 13 years, and these [RPOE] soldiers achieved infantry standards," Freda said. "I have a huge sense of satisfaction knowing that the RPOE mission will continue to be in capable hands after I've moved on."
Exercise director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, Transcom's director of operations and plans, summed up Turbo Distribution 15-7.
"Our nation has come to rely on the unique capabilities provided by Joint Task Force-Port Opening," Tuck said. "It is our duty and responsibility to keep these capabilities current and continue to improve our JTF-PO processes to support our U.S. national whole-of-government approach in the international community, especially during humanitarian crises. Turbo Distribution helps us do just that."