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NEWS | March 14, 2014

Dubai cargo mission shows versatility and dedication of Army National Guard

By Courtesy Story

DUBAI - On March 5, the 840th Transportation Battalion Dubai detachment made history for the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) by conducting the first airlift of Class I cargo via an Air Force C-17 aircraft from Dubai to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.

The combined, joint service operation involved the delivery of more than 45,000 pounds of food and supplies to troops in Afghanistan, and included coordination with numerous agencies, including U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Central Command, Defense Logistics Agency, U.S. Embassy personnel in Dubai, the U.S. Air Force and various host nation and commercial partners.

According to SDDC officials, Dubai is a major multimodal point for cargo going into and out of Afghanistan.

According to SDDC operators, the March 5 mission was unique in that SDDC—the U.S. Army's surface transportation experts assigned to Dubai—played a significant role in an air-only proof of principle operation.

"This gives SDDC and USTRANSCOM more flexibility in moving cargo into and out of Afghanistan," explained Leah Cotton, a traffic management specialist assigned to the Headquarters SDDC G3 Operations Directorate. She said the center's primary responsibility was to ensure communication between the various higher headquarters and SDDC key players, including the 595th Transportation Brigade, 840th Transportation Battalion,and the SDDC Dubai Detachment.

"USTRANSCOM determines if there is a mission and a requirement to support, then it's our job to define and shape that mission," added Capt. Henry Christian, Dubai detachment commander and member of the Alabama Army National Guard. 

 "This mission proves that if you're able to coordinate and communicate with the right people, you can successfully execute the mission," said Michael Jenkins, also a traffic management specialist assigned to the G3 directorate. "Everyone who participated in this operation did their job well."

The devil is in the details

For this operation, an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III was tasked to pick up and deliver the Class I cargo.  For the Air Force, using C-17 aircraft to pick up and deliver cargo is commonplace. However, there are no Air Force ground assets in Dubai to palletize and load the cargo according to strict Air Force standards.

That's where the SDDC Dubai detachment stepped in.

SDDC works missions in Dubai that involve some form of surface transportation, normally multimodal operations using a combination of commercial ocean carriers and either commercial or military aircraft.  In fact, much of the equipment retrograded out of Afghanistan transits through Dubai, under the supervision of Christian, the Alabama ARNG member and commander of the SDDC detachment.

According to Christian, his unit facilitates the movement of cargo and provides in-transit visibility on all U.S. military and Department of Defense cargo retrograding from Afghanistan transiting through UAE ports of entry and exit.

This is accomplished through countless hours of synchronization meetings and key leader engagements with host nation partners.

For this particular mission, the detachment personnel and expertise was fully tested.

According to Christian, before the cargo even arrived at the airport, he had to coordinate Custom clearance issues and other details, including arranging for a cold storage facility for the frozen cargo, as well as coordinating the appropriate declaration of hazardous cargo (because of the dry ice used to keep the cargo cold) in a very close time constraint.

"We had to coordinate for additional cold storage time to give the detachment Soldiers time to build the pallets and preserve the integrity of the class I cargo" Christian said.

Once the cargo arrived at the airport, SDDC Soldiers in Dubai, including Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jennifer Maloy (North Carolina Army National Guard), a mobility warrant officer from the 840th Transportation Battalion, oversaw the palletizing of the frozen cargo.  The Dubai detachment Soldiers were responsible for securing the 463L pallets with side and top cargo nets to prevent the cargo from shifting during flight; and once the pallets were built to Air Force specifications, the Dubai detachment Soldiers began loading the pallets onto the aircraft with limited material handling equipment.  The Dubai detachment Soldiers had to manually transition the 463L pallets from the loader onto the aircraft.

"The Dubai detachment personnel partnered with their S&RTS contractor to conduct the land-side portion of this operation," Christian explained.  The captain said the S&RTS contractor was responsible for transporting the cargo to and from the cold storage facility; building the 463L pallets; transporting the cargo to the C-17.

"The success of this mission is a testament to the dedication, professionalism, and host nation partnerships of the Soldiers assigned to the SDDC Dubai Detachment," added the captain.  "When all was said and done, this team was responsible for ensuring that Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and DOD civilians in Afghanistan receive mission-essential sustainment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom."