A Logistics Lifeline… Joint Task Force – Port Opening

 Imagine yourself with your family on a tropical island … your kids are laughing in the distance as they explore the water front, you and your spouse kick back in a hammock, an ocean breeze ruffles through your hair.

 Suddenly, you drop to the ground as trees fall around you, the ground rumbling and crumbling beneath you.  You realize it’s a massive earthquake.  You take cover and pray for it all to end.

 In the aftermath, you manage your way through the once beautiful city now left in shambles; buildings have crumbled to the ground or are severely damaged.  There is virtually nothing left of the city.  Your mind is overwhelmed with the devastation around you, and you soon realize there is no way to get home. 

 What do you do?  Where do you go?  Who is coming to your rescue and how will they get onto the island? 

NAVELSG's Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) Sailors lift an ambulance as they train to support JTF-PO and othr HA/DR missions. Their rapid deployability and suppot to timely logistics flow into any theater is crucial to ensure critical aide equipment and supplies are brought to nations in need.

NAVELSG’s Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) Sailors lift an ambulance as they train to support JTF-PO and othr HA/DR missions. Their rapid deployability and suppot to timely logistics flow into any theater is crucial to ensure critical aide equipment and supplies are brought to nations in need.

 You’ve seen it in the news, images of destruction and distraught people seeking aid for the basics of life we take for granted.  It’s happened in our own country following Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy; people left without a solid lifeline … helpless and hopeless.  Well, help and hope are on the way with logistics as the lifeline.  That logistics lifeline, at such a critical time, following a major catastrophe comes in many forms; one is the Joint Task Force — Port Opening (JTF-PO).

 In today’s environment of rapid change and limited resources, the military must respond quickly and efficiently to situations around the world.  The U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) developed the JTF‑PO to rapidly open and establish operations at ports of debarkation, as well as initial distribution networks to support joint crisis response operations.  A JTF-PO Sea Port of Debarkation (SPOD) was effectively employed during the Operation Unified Response (OUR) humanitarian mission in Haiti.  In 2010, Haiti experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that caused incredible destruction in Port‑au‑Prince, one of Haiti’s major sea ports.  The damage from the quake left vital infrastructure including sea, and land transport facilities, communication systems, and hospitals, necessary to respond to the disaster, severely damaged or destroyed.  Rescue and medical teams, engineers, and other support personnel and materials had no way into theater to provide much needed aid to the devastated people of Haiti. 

 Following disasters like this, the Navy’s Global Force for Good can reach out to help support Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) efforts.  Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), through Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG), was a vital part of OUR in Haiti.  With vital infrastructure severely damaged or unusable, it is imperative that a force designed to support expeditionary operations ranging from humanitarian missions to major combat operations be deployed.  JTF–PO was created to address critical shortfalls such as discrepancies between shipped and received material, to rapidly clear cargo, to establish a distribution node and network, to coordinated cargo onward movement, insufficient in-transit visibility (ITV), and so on.  Basically, cargo often arrived before the capability to track and effectively distribute it.  JTF–PO prevents this initial gap by bringing forces in a timely manner.  The coordination of logistics flow at the beginning of a major movement prevents “lost” high priority cargo resources and delivers aid or other materiel on time, thus increasing effective mission support. 

 JTF-PO is a jointly‑trained, ready set of forces constituted as a Joint Task Force at the time of need with key players coming from the U.S. Army through Surface Deployment Distribution Command (SDDC) with its Rapid Port Opening Element (RPOE), the Navy through Military Sealift Command MSC Expeditionary Port Units (MSC EPU) and NECC, through NAVELSG, specifically, Navy Cargo Handling Battalion ONE (NCHB-1), the Navy’s only active duty cargo handling battalion.

JTF-PO leadership conduct Rehearsal of Concept (ROC0 drill at Navy Cargo Handling Battalion I Headquarters (NCHB1) to ensure "joint" understanding of the JTF-PO heavy scheme of maneuver in a mock scenario.

JTF-PO leadership conduct Rehearsal of Concept (ROC0 drill at Navy Cargo Handling Battalion I Headquarters (NCHB1) to ensure “joint” understanding of the JTF-PO heavy scheme of maneuver in a mock scenario.

 These forces, both active and reserve are pre-designated and tailored according to mission requirements and availability of Host Nation and/or contract support.  In garrison, components of JTF-PO remain with their parent commands, focusing on their service mission.  Once tasked for a JTF-PO mission, Operational Control (OPCON) is transferred to U.S. Transportation Command.  JTF-PO is in direct support of Combatant Commanders / Joint Task Force; answers directly to, and expected to fulfill the requirements of the supported commander.

JTF–PO SPOD consists of Medium and Heavy variants, and operates in permissive to uncertain environments.  The SPOD‑Heavy is designed to operate at an austere seaport with limited to no commercial port handling capability.  As discussed, the goal is to rapidly open a port to start desperately‑needed supplies flowing within hours after requested military forces set foot on ground. Sustainment of logistics flow following initial establishment would be through Reserve Component Cargo Battalions, contractors and/or host nation capabilities, once they are re-established.

 NAVELSG, headquartered at Cheatham Annex, with regiments and battalions located across the United States, has been a key part of the USTRANSCOM JTF-PO effort, partnering with U.S. Army logisticians to provide a means to open SPODs globally in response to crisis where normal means of logistics flow may be impaired or impeded.  NCHB-1 provides up to 30 percent of its own personnel to support JTF-PO and was recently certified, along with their Army counterparts, by USTRANSCOM Directorate of Operations (USTC TCJ3), in the first JTF-PO‑Heavy Field Training Exercise (FTX) in February 2013.  A follow on event is slated for May 2014 using both land‑based training platforms and actual MSC and Maritime Administration (MARAD) controlled ships.  This training and continuous certification will keep their skills sharp and the unit poised to meet sudden “pop‑up” logistics demand globally.

 In summary, JTF–PO is ready to support Combatant Commanders and tailored to mission need.  When a critical warfighter is needed, JTF-PO is an on-call logistics enabler ready to deploy ahead of the Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data (TPFDD), a pre-designated, and jointly‑trained force.  JTF-PO has the capabilities to asses, open, operate, and clear ports with In-Transit Visibility, synchronize end-to-end inter‑modal movement of cargo, facilitate expeditionary theatre opening processes, and support theater transitions and Joint Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration.

 By Cmdr. Jason Parkhouse and Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Jenkins

Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group, Cheatham Annex, Va.

 

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