UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - In a first for Iron Union, planners decided to send equipment to Mugharraq Port near the Al Hamra training area, enabling them to cut three days off the time it takes to haul equipment across the United Arab Emirates. The move required much cooperation among several branches of the U.S. Army, Emirati Land Forces, and port workers in both Kuwait and the UAE.
Maj. Mark Mullinax, 35th Infantry Division logistics plans officer for the exercise, said planning for the event started in July and received help from U.S. contractor Dennis Arinello, senior strategic logistics operations planner for U.S. Army Central, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
The 35th Infantry Division, a National Guard Division Headquarters based in Kansas, is deployed to the Middle East.
"Iron Union 17-4 was incredibly successful from a logistical standpoint," said Mullinax. "It was full of first-time accomplishments. We assessed and utilized a new airport for landing, a sea port for equipment arrival, and also increased interoperability by using the diplomatic clearance agreement."
To accomplish this, the 35th Inf. Div. and USARCENT needed to involve the 569th Engineer Dive Detachment and the 411th Transportation Detachment, both currently stationed at Kuwait Naval Base.
Divers from the 569th Eng. Det. support the U.S. Army Logistics Support Vessel-5, Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross for this mission by clearing ports in the Arabian Gulf in Kuwait and the UAE.
Since a new port is being utilized in the UAE, a hydrographic survey was conducted of the entire basin, which took nearly two weeks to complete.
Sgt. Kile Bannan, a salvage diver for the 569th Eng. Dive Det., said not only do they clear the berth before the vessels enter the ports, they also clear the pilot boat before it leaves the port to meet the vessel. The detachment covered both ports since the vessel needed to make two trips for the transfer of all the equipment.
"My team stays in the UAE until the ship returns with the second load," said Bannan. "We support the vessel and clear the ports before its arrival."
Bannan also said they coordinated with the U.S. Navy in the UAE prior to their arrival. Instead of trying to travel with all of their gear, they were able to make arrangements to borrow dive tanks and medical gear.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Stone, 2nd mate and navigational officer for the Gross, 411th Transportation Det., said overall the mission was familiar as far as the vessel capabilities go, but the new port brought on a few challenges of its own.
"This was the first time any U.S. Army watercraft has visited this particular port," said Stone. "We did find the shallow depths and narrow channels to be limiting and nerve-racking at times."
However, they were able to maneuver back out of the port slowly and return with their second haul just as successfully as their first trip.
"Overall, it was a well-constructed, successful mission," Arinello said. "Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were able to offload their equipment and get it moved in record time."
Rather than the typical 72 hours of transporting equipment from a port near Abu Dhabi to Al Hamra, the 3-1 CAV was able to offload their vehicles from the Gross in the morning and had them staged at their camp by evening.
"I would like to further enhance our coordination for Iron Union 18-1 to make these new processes even smoother," Mullinax said.
Now that the exercise is well underway and the equipment has been moved successfully, Mullinax is looking forward to planning Iron Union 18-1 and building on this experience.
"I am hoping to be a part of the planning team for Iron Union 18-1 as it’s such a significant engagement," Mullinax said. "I will be able to share my knowledge and experience in working with the Emiratis and quickly correct any issues that arise throughout the planning process."