Magazine article National Defense

Army Transportation Unit Adapts to Growing Demand

Magazine article National Defense

Army Transportation Unit Adapts to Growing Demand

Article excerpt

The Military Traffic Management Command--the Army unit responsible for surface transportation for all of the armed services--is undergoing a major reorganization in order to streamline its far-flung operations and speed up the delivery of supplies and equipment to U.S. troops around the world.

The changes began before the September 11 terrorist attacks, but those events "propelled us much faster than otherwise would have been the case," said Brig. Gen. Barbara Doornink, the MTMC's deputy commanding general. Doornink sat down with National Defense in her new offices at Fort Eustis, Va., to explain the changes.

The MTMC, she noted, is the Army component of the U.S. Transportation Command, which manages the worldwide movement of all Defense Department cargo by air, land or sea. The MTMC is responsible for surface transportation of those goods, from the U.S. point of origin to the ship and from the oversea ports to the final destination, Doornink said. A total of 92 percent of all military cargo moves by surface transportation, she said.

During the first six months of fiscal year 2002, for example, the MTMC moved 1.3 million tons of material in 42,000 containers, Doornink said. Shipments to Afghanistan and the surrounding region have included Air Force munitions, Hellfire missiles and humanitarian supplies. The command even shipped water in plastic bottles by rail from Europe, across Russia into Uzbekistan.

The MTMC also shipped cargo to the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where alleged terrorists captured in Afghanistan are being detained, Doornink explained. The first shipment included a hospital and some buses to transport the detainees to Camp X-Ray.

As the war on terrorism spreads to other countries, such as the Philippines, the former Soviet republic of Georgia and possibly Iraq, the MTMC is likely to see a substantial increase in shipments in the near future, well above the level of activity in 2001, according to Doornink. In that year, she noted, the command transported 3.7 million tons of cargo, 26,000 passengers, 75,000 personal vehicles, 500,000 shipments of personal property and 95,300 containers.

The MTMC contracts with private industry to do the actual shipping. In 2001, it awarded $876 million in shipping contracts to companies in the transportation industry, including oceangoing, rail and trucking.

The command works with eight U.S. flag carriers to provide ocean-liner services for U.S. military units in 130 countries. As part of the war on terror, service was expanded to include Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. To reach that region, cargoes are shipped by sea to the port of Bremerhaven, in Germany, then by rail to the destination.

The war--and the increasing activity associated with it-came at an awkward time, when the MTMC was downsizing, Doornink said. In 1999, as a result of Base Realignment and Closure Commission decisions a few years earlier, the command closed port facilities at the Oakland Army Base, in California, and the Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne, in New Jersey.

Many of the functions of those two ports were transferred to Fort Eustis. MTMC units at Fort Eustis--the home of the Army's Transportation Corps-had been responsible for military shipments within the United States and Puerto Rico.

In the summer of 2001, the Army announced what was called "a sweeping reorganization" of the MTMC. The command's Operations Division and the Joint Traffic Management Office at MTMC headquarters, in Alexandria, Va., were to be moved to Fort Eustis and combined with the Deployment Support Command, creating a new worldwide MTMC Operations Center.

Originally, the reorganization--which eventually will trim 250 personnel spaces, 9 percent of the MTMC's 2,346 worldwide force--was scheduled to take place in November of this year.

Accelerating the Pace

After 9/11, however, the pace of change was accelerated, Doornink said. …

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