Army Reserve activates first watercraft brigade

By Sgt. 1st Class Angele Ringo | 3d Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) | Oct. 27, 2015

October 27, 2015 —

FORT BELVOIR, Va. – A unit born on the rails reemerged on the water in an historic ceremony that activated the 3d Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) making it the first watercraft brigade in the Army Reserve.  The event was just the beginning of a busy summer and fall that saw notable training with its active duty counterpart, the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), and the addition of more units to its footprint. For 3d TB (X) Commander Col. David Roscoe, it is an exciting time to be in the Army watercraft business.

“We have an opportunity to meet a lot of the demands that are taking place globally for watercraft, particularly what we’re doing in the Pacific—the Asia region,” said Roscoe. “We are a unit that hopefully can be in a position to deploy rapidly to deliver logistics over the shore in a fashion that supports our national strategic needs.”

The 3d TB(X) was first designated in 1941 as the 22d Railway Grand Division. Over the next 74 years, it would be converted, redesignated, reorganized and inactivated. Along the way it changed names, shrank and grew in size before finally being activated once again as a watercraft brigade and a direct reporting unit to the 377th Theater Sustainment Command.  The build-up to the unit’s activation took more than a year with former Commander Col. Stephanie Rivers leading the effort to lay the groundwork for a successful launch that became official in September.

“When [the Institute of] Heraldry was asked to promote a unit to reactivate, the 3d TB(X) was an obvious choice,” she said during the activation and change of command ceremony. “We reach back to an amazing history, primarily rail, and now we’ll go forward in a new way over water.”  

As the unit prepared for its’ activation, it simultaneously trained for a near month-long Logistics-Over-the-Shore (LOTS) exercise with the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), its active duty counterpart.  Terminal Warrior 2015 took place in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia from mid July through mid August and included Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty units focused on cohesion and sharpening proficiency in basic LOTS skills as part of the Total Army Concept.  3d TB(X) staff officers teamed with the 7th TB(X) to form an integrated headquarters to manage the exercise.  7th TB(X) Commander, Col. Stacy Townsend saw it as a chance to share its tactics, techniques and procedures for better interoperability.

“I think it was a good opportunity for us to kind of learn from each other and as we move forward kind of figure out what are the best practices and how do we share those with each other so as we continue to work together there’s less differences in how we operate and that makes mission command easier,” he said.

The 3d TB(X) supports unified land operations by providing mission command of port, terminal and watercraft units specializing in port-opening, movement control and austere intermodal operations at unimproved seaports.  Army watercraft have the added capability of operating on smaller bodies of water.

“Army vessels are unique because no one does the rivers, or just to the beach.  Navy ships are too large,” said Rivers.  “We act as the shuttle service.”

The 3d TB(X) footprint includes watercraft units in Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.  The beginning of Fiscal Year 16 brought the addition of a battalion with units located in those same states.  The consolidation of watercraft assets under one command streamlines funding, according to Roscoe, which enables them to deploy crews where they are needed more efficiently.

“It lends us to be able to support worldwide requirements rather than segmenting them out to these particular elements in a way that may not best support the budget constraints we may be experiencing and what is required on a worldwide level,” he said.
 
It also puts the expertise needed to support watercraft units in one place,  added Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Brown, a marine deck officer for the 3d TB(X). When units need things, that know-how can be critical in deploying a vessel in a timely manner.

“it’s like getting the bullets and beans to the infantry soldiers. We can get all the things that are needed to support Army watercraft to get the boats away from the pier which is literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different tasks that need to be performed.  So, having this level of expertise here will certainly help in that endeavor,” he said.

The unit continues to actively recruit Soldiers to the headquarters and to its down-trace units.  Army watercraft is a highly specialized career field requiring extensive training.  While there are other support roles, enlisted Soldiers who work directly with vessels typically train to be watercraft operators or engineers, which fall under the military occupational specialties of 88K and 88L respectively. Chief Warrant Officers can serve as vessel masters or chief engineers. 

A watercraft operator for 14 years, Staff Sergeant Andrew Gurry had never been part of a new unit standing up for the first time and believes that they can have a significant impact on the shape of the field in the future. A big part of that includes educating new 3d TB(X) soldiers.
 
“Right now we’re in the crawl stage.  We’re getting the soldiers to understand what a TB(X) or a transportation brigade expeditionary does.  A lot of these soldiers have never worked with vessels before especially the newer ones.  The main thing is educating them on how watercraft works, what our purpose is,” said Gurry.

The shape of the 3d TB(X) remains a work in progress as the Army Reserve considers adding additional units under its command. In the meantime, unit leaders continue to focus on building in strength, capacity and capability so they can be viable asset when called.

“We need to be out there, we need to be ready, we need to be relevant so we can support the homeland security mission in a manner the Army and the American tax payer expects.”