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NEWS | July 26, 2017

Overseeing Big Lots West-2017

By Capt. Fernando Ochoa 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

Col. Steven McLaughlin, 1394th Transportation Surface Brigade commander, traveled to Southern California to oversee the Big Logistics-Over-the-Shore West 2017 at Camp Pendleton, for joint operations with the United States Navy and U.S Marine Corp, during the month of July.

Big LOTS - West 2017 is a United States Army Reserve functional exercise part of the Army Reserve Training Strategy in order to enhance unit readiness by conducting live and virtual port and bare beach operations with external evaluations. BLW-17 will consist of a three day Company Training/Mission Rehearsal exercise, a three day Command Post Exercise and a six day integrated Field Training Exercise.

“From our command's perspective, this exercise is important because of all the large scale expeditionary logistics activities taking place in the vicinity of the West Coast, and working with the Navy and Marines is always great training,” said McLaughlin. “This is a great opportunity to learn more about the functions of the many Army Reserve units supporting this exercise and how they integrate together to accomplish this mission, increasing contacts, exchanging information and continuing to build a partnership with the Army.”

This exercise had a huge footprint with a lot of moving parts. With over 5000 Soldiers, this annual training included a Transportation Surface Brigade, three Regional Support Groups, two Seaport Operations Companies, an Inland Cargo Transfer Company, two Truck Companies with Palletized Load Systems, two Harbormaster Operations Detachments, two Landing Craft Utility 2000s and a Watercraft Maintenance Company.

BLW17 is a collection of visual movements and engaging projections of power through the delivery of cargo, mixed with long, tiring days and hot summer nights. Soldiers worked day and night to prepare to serve their customers in the coming months, years and potential conflicts.

This was also a joint exercise with the valuable and trusted co-services Navy and Marines. With the Navy’s Landing Craft Air Cushion boats to deliver cargo from ships directly to the beach, the Marines were on scene to give logistical support with transportation once the delivery was made.

Brig. Gen. David Elwell, 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command commanding general, was on the ground as the Senior Commander of the Combat Support Training Exercise. CSTX is the larger training exercise in which Big LOTS - West is nested. Many of the 311th ESC’s units were instrumental in the transportation of a Modular Causeway System from Yermo, California to the Port of San Diego.

“Having Big LOTS-West imbedded into CSTX gives us the opportunity to exercise the entire intermodal transportation system, from rail to truck, truck to naval ship, ship to Army watercraft,” said Brig. Gen. Elwell. “Big LOTS is a tremendous opportunity for our Soldiers to get real world sea port experience, loading by roll, on-roll off and to crane. Also, this is a rare opportunity to participate in a logistics over the shore training exercise.”

Among the distinguished guests visiting this exercise were three British Soldiers from the 165th Port and Maritime Regiment RLC. British Soldier Capt. Mark Cowley, 165th Port and Maritime Regiment RLC, and two of his men were on hand to observe the exercise and see if there were any new methods that they could use in their operations. The 165th P&M RGT train as port operators in order to load and unload ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and were thoroughly engage with the aspect of the mission.

Reminiscent of forces deployed down range, the Big LOTS exercise had operations that spread out over a large land mass that included locations at Camp Pendleton, the Port of San Diego, Port of Alameda, Naval Base Coronado and the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow Yermo Annex.

One of the most complicated undertakings of the exercise was the construction of a Modular Causeway System. This pier like ramp was trucked in from the Yermo Annex to the Port of San Diego in many parts and took many days to assemble. The Modular Causeway System is the Army’s means for offloading war-fighting equipment when no port is available.

Army Reserve Soldiers are obligated to serve two days a month and two weeks a year. Thousands of Soldiers throughout the country have come to BLW17 to fulfill their obligation and train in their Military Occupational Specialty, where there is a battle field environment.

The 1394th Transportation Surface Brigade is an Army Service Component Command supporting United States Transportation Commands. The command provides ocean terminal, commercial ocean liner service and traffic management services to deploy, sustain and redeploy U.S. forces on a global basis. The command is responsible for surface transportation and is the interface between DOD shippers and the commercial transportation carrier industry.