During a port operations exercise in Baltimore, a convoy of military police trucks rolled up the ramp and into the gaping mouth of a 697-foot cargo ship named Cape Wrath.
“This (training) helps us be aware of some of the showstoppers, some of the issues we could run into when we do get deployed, and it helps us get smart on a lot of the processes that it takes to move our equipment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Angela Ross, the unit movement officer for the 200th Military Police Command, headquartered at Fort Meade, Md.
Military police and watercraft Soldiers have different missions when it comes to fighting wars, but in the past few weeks, their U.S. Army Reserve troops collaborated to improve one another’s deployment readiness. They each had what the other lacked. The watercraft unit had access to cargo ships and cranes, but no trucks. The military police had trucks, but no ships. So it was a match made in Maryland, having access to the Port of Baltimore nearby for all units involved. The exercise was split into multiple days and separate events taking place in October and early November.
The lead unit for this exercise was the 1398th Deployment Distribution Support Battalion, which specializes in seaport embarkation and debarkation. When deployed, they’re able to manage single-port operations for a combatant command anywhere in the world. Military cargos deliver vehicles, weapons, ammo, equipment, food and everything else Soldiers need on the battlefield.
“If we’re not doing our function in our port, it hinders an entire geographical command, potentially,” said Capt. Lee Rodriguez, transportation and operations officer for the 1398th DDSB.
Soldiers from the 200th MP Command and one of its down-trace units, the 400th MP Battalion, both located at Fort Meade, partnered with the DDSB for this training. Like many other units across the U.S. Army Reserve, certain MP units have been selected to deploy rapidly at any moment. This is part of an Army Reserve initiative known as Ready Force X, which includes a pool of combat-ready forces able to deploy in 30-90 days once notified.
“By partnering with the 200th Military Police and its down-trace, we were able to simulate a deploying unit, which helped us meet our (mission essential tasks) of port operations,” said Rodriguez.
In turn, by taking part in this Baltimore port exercise, it familiarized the military police with the very technical and detail-oriented process of logistics and transportation. It’s not as simple as driving up to a boat and taking off. The process involves multiple log systems, equipment measurements, flawless accountability and constant communications between the deploying and the port units.
“If we give incorrect information, that slows the process down, and we could miss our movement. We could miss the boat,” said Ross.
Gaining this experience now will make them much more efficient to deploy later, she said.
The port battalion also coordinated with fellow Army Reserve transportation companies and the Department of Transportation to gain access to various vessels and loading equipment throughout their exercise.
“We don’t get to play with a vessel this size, ever. So this is a big deal for our guys. It gives them an invaluable experience because opening a vessel like this (for training) is expensive,” said Maj. Jon McKee, operations officer for a Terminal Management Team with the 1398th DDSB.
Through these local partnerships in Maryland, the 1398th DDSB was able to accomplish a major training event at a lower cost because everything was done locally.
“We’ve done something that in essence nears a large-scale exercise, like (a Combat Support Training Exercise) or Trans Warrior. By coordinating between internal units, we were able to do a much more effective job on a shorter suspense,” said Rodriguez.
One day, all of these units may well deploy anywhere in the world, but in the meantime, they’ve found a way to complete necessary training just a few miles from home.