TOMAKOMAI, Japan -- The 836th Transportation Battalion, headquartered at Yokohama North Dock, Japan, recently participated in a bilateral port operation with the 2nd Terminal Battalion of the Central Transportation Command (CTC), Japan Ground Defense Forces (JGDSF) at the port of Tomakomai in Hokkaido, Japan. This bilateral port operation hallmarks the long professional relationship shared between the 836th Transportation Battalion and the Central Transportation Command (CTC).
CTC is JGSDF's component equivalent to the U.S. Transportation Command, directly reporting to Japan's Minister of Defense. It has recently undergone a reorganization and missioning to provide both domestic and overseas surface transportation for all Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF). CTC executes their missions through mission command of five terminal port battalions and five International Transportation Support Detachments spread across Japan to include Okinawa. The current focus of the CTC is on growing and developing its capabilities to better support Japanese Self Defense Forces.
To accomplish this transformation, Col. Ohba, CTC commander, has requested assistance from the 599th Transportation Brigade and 836th Transportation Battalion, as it transforms into an organization with a mission very similar to that of the U.S. Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC). During a recent visit to Yokohama North Dock, Japan, SDDC commanding general, Maj. Gen. Steven Farmen met with CTC leadership and expressed SDDC's commitment to provide continuous support and desire to strengthen our bilateral partnership.
In pursuit of providing assistance, 836th Transportation Battalion deployed a terminal management team (TMT) to assist and observe CTC conduct port operations at the port of Tomakomai of a deployment to home station (DTHS) mission as the Japanese 3rd Army completed a successful rotation at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California. The 2nd Terminal Battalion deployed a TMT-like element to discharge 145 pieces of rolling stock comprising wheeled vehicles and trailers, tracked vehicles, and containers from the MV Colorado Highway, a commercial vessel chartered by CTC. Many transportation functions found within SDDC are present in the CTC including ocean cargo booking via one-time-only (OTO) contacting which was utilized to support this mission.
Second Terminal Battalion's TMT consisted of one officer-in-charge, three marine cargo specialists, and seven cargo documentation specialists. In addition to the 2nd Battalion's TMT, eight Soldiers deployed from CTC's headquarters located at Camp Yokohama, Yokohama City, and three Soldiers who deployed from the 1st Terminal Battalion at Camp Makomanai, Hokkaido in Northern Japan.
The ability to deploy additional forces from within CTC is part of the new operational transformation. Prior to the re-missioning of the CTC, the five port battalions were regionally aligned throughout Japan and restricted to providing support only within their assigned geographical regions. The battalions were also mission-commanded by the governors of their various prefectures. This model is comparative to how the National Guard operates under the direction of State Governments in the United States.
Under the new construct, the five battalions are direct reporting units (DRUs) to the CTC which now reports directly to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. The change provides more flexibility and greater resources to JSDF for not only military requirements, but also disaster and humanitarian relief missions (HR/DR). When conducting international shipments, CTC always deploys a TMT component from its headquarters at Camp Yokohama to assist the Terminal Port Battalion and ensure there are no customs documentation issues.
The TMT arrived at the Port of Tomakomai one hour before beginning operations and immediately conducted an exercise that they refer to as "hands across the desert." This activity is aimed at removing all debris from the staging area which could puncture tires or cause other damage to cargo being staged there.
After clearing the staging area, the TMT, the maneuver unit's port support activity (PSA), and the vessel's agent conducted a consolidated safety brief and boarded the vessel to start tracked vehicles and prepare them for discharge. Prior to cargo rolling off the vessel, marine cargo specialists organized the staging area and established staging lanes to segregate cargo by unit.
As rolling stock was discharged off the vessel, marine cargo specialists guided each vehicle to an appropriate staging lane. During the operation, they also monitored contracted labor (stevedores & longshoremen) that unlashed cargo and drove/discharged wheeled vehicles and trailers. All tracked vehicles were operated/discharged by Soldiers from the maneuver unit. Meanwhile, cargo documentation specialists accounted for equipment and checked for damage by filling out manual tally sheets. They also kept track of each piece of equipment for accountability and monitored the time it took to discharge each piece of cargo to create a database and metrics that will be uses to plan future operations.
Unlike SDDC, CTC does not have automated systems equivalent to those the U.S. Army uses. Therefore, marine cargo specialists do not create or update stow plans. Creation of stow plans is a carrier responsibility for both civilian and Japanese military vessels. CTC does not use military shipping labels (MSL) or any other means of digitally accounting for cargo shipped. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are also not used when transporting cargo. There is currently a plan in development to modernize and digitize the CTC to match current SDDC capabilities. However, the timeline for implementing the aforementioned changes is unknown.
The 836th Transportation Battalion will continue to support CTC through sharing port operations knowledge and experience.