PORT SHUAIBA, Kuwait –
"Sentinel Soldiers" of the Army Reserve's Lancaster, Pennsylvania, based 1185th Deployment and Distribution Support Battalion offloaded more than 500 pieces of equipment from the container ship Liberty Promise, May 24.
This operation was part of an effort to move the final tranche of equipment from U.S. Army Central's Area Support Group-Qatar, which is in the process of deactivating.
"The ship came in last night around 2300 and we started unloading around 30 minutes after midnight," said Sgt. Javonne Thomas, the vessel noncommissioned officer in charge for the port operations with the Liberty Promise, 1185th DDSB.
The battalion's practice is to have the Soldiers work shifts, 12 hours on and 12 hours off, until the work is done, he said.
Of the more than 500 pieces offloaded from the vessel, about 250 pieces came from Army operations winding down in Qatar, mostly shipping containers and over 100 Humvees.
Lt. Col. Dion S. Haverstraw, the 1185th DDSB commander, said in addition to containers from facilities in Qatar, there were also pieces from the Army Prepositioned Stock program destined for the APS lots at Camp Arifjan.
The APS program is a cornerstone of the Army's ability to rapidly project power and send a clear signal of U.S. commitment. The program provides sets of equipment to field whole brigades strategically prepositioned in climate controlled facilities worldwide.
Haverstraw said the bulk of the vehicles offloaded are designated for the Counter ISIS Train and Equip Fund-Iraq, which transfers military equipment to U.S. security partners in the region.
The colonel said he is very pleased with the progress his Soldiers have made during their deployment.
"Soldiers of the 1185th DDSB have stepped up during this deployment by continually honing their skills; they continue to get better and better in their positions with each vessel," he said. "During the deployment, many of the Soldiers conducted cross-training to build redundancies as a contingency measure to minimize impacts of COVID-19."
The innovation has been constant, he said.
"We have made improvements to the way we receive, store and call forward equipment and cargo for large unit moves," he said. "We have also identified shortcomings with cargo movement and submitted an updated Theater Advisory for approval for routing CTEF-I cargo to address greater efficiencies for the movement of CTEF-I equipment."
Capt. Michael LeCompte, the Liberty Promise's master, said he loves missions in support of the military.
"We're all very honored," the Rumford, Maine, resident said. "I'm a strong believer in freedom and it comes at a cost--and these Soldiers are taking time away from their families and putting their lives on the line--just as we are to get these supplies over to them," the captain said. "We're all part of the same team."
Vernal Garris, the safety manager for the 595th Transportation Brigade, a surface deployment and distribution capabilities brigade permanently headquartered at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, said he joined the brigade in July because after working in the safety field as an Army Civilian for 13 years, he wanted maritime and port operations experience.
"I wanted to learn the inside operation of port ops--and there was a need because the brigade was looking for a safety manager," he said. "As an Army Civilian, I can give them some continuity and a little bit of guidance, especially when it comes to the upper echelon, OSHA-type regulations." OSHA is the shorthand for the federal government's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Garris said he enjoys the comradery with members of the different crews on the different vessels. "But, also the Soldiers from the mighty 1185th."
The Yelm, Washington, resident said the "Sentinel" Soldiers are a cohesive team.
"As far as the skills go, they're a lot more laid back, but not in a negative way," he said. "They understand these stevedores that operate, taking the vehicles on and off, they know what they're doing, therefore, there is no tension."
Because many Army Reserve Soldiers work at ports or in transportation in their civilian jobs, they do not panic, he said. "There's a calm, there is no hindrance, and it means the mission gets expedited."
Thomas, a native of St. Thomas, now living in Tampa, Florida, said he supervised a team of 11 Soldiers, including safety personnel, a four-man tally unit to account for all pieces coming on and off the ship, and one Soldier to run the Integrated Computerized Deployment System, or ICODES.
ICODES is the Defense Department program that allows personnel to plan and execute ship, air, truck, rail, as well as and yard planning services for freight and passengers, he said.
For this port operation, they used ICODES to propose to the crew how the uploaded pieces would be positioned on the ship, he said.
Army Reserve Capt. Matt Mollet, the 1185th DDSB's officer in charge of stevedoring and related terminal services and the battalion's contracting officer representative, said he is always concerned about safety when working on the vessels and piers.
"Safety is paramount for all vessel operations," said the Alexandria, Virginia, resident.
Heat safety is a major concern, he said. "For the Liberty Promise and future vessel missions, our team monitors temperatures both outside and within the vessel. As a team, we ensure our Soldiers and contractor partners remain hydrated and take appropriate rest breaks."
Mollet, who in his civilian career is the logistics, plans and operations chief at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in Washington, said the 1185th DDSB Soldiers prove that Army Reserve Soldiers bring more to the mission than their Army training.
"One of the unique benefits of the Army Reserve is the ability to leverage a Soldier's technical military expertise alongside their civilian employment skills," he said.
"Within the 1185th DDSB Terminal Management Team, our Soldiers have a wide variety of civilian employment such as commercial port workers, EMTs, law enforcement and federal government civilian positions," he said. "The key is to identify and utilize those civilian skills to foster innovative thinking and accomplish the mission."
Thomas said he enjoys his work at the port.
"The most fun part about doing my job is getting to interact with all the different shipmates and vessels that come in," he said. "Just being able to talk to them about how their day-to-day life on the sea goes."
The sergeant said he is also glad his job positively contributes to his country.
"Being able to do what I do, to bring equipment into this area of operations and send equipment back home gives me a good feeling--like, I'm doing my part."