U.S. Army Pacific -- The Pacific Reach 2019 (PR-19) Brigade Inspection Reconnaissance Exercise Program (BIREP) in support of Army Prepositioned Stock 4 (APS-4) provided an excellent training event while simultaneously validating watercraft readiness and the readiness of Soldiers who deployed to draw and utilize it. Forty-six Soldiers from the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) (7th TB (X)) deployed to Yokahama North Dock (YND), Japan, in support of care of supplies in storage (COSIS) of APS-4 watercraft as executed by Army Field Support Battalion-Northeast Asia (AFSBn-NEA). 7th TB (X) Soldiers assisted them in expediting their maintenance and draw procedures. Soldiers drew the Barge Derrick (BD) to exercise AFSBn-NEA's ability to issue equipment within 48 hours.
Concurrently, crews exercised various watercraft platforms including the Small Tug (ST), Modular Warping Tug (MWT), and Side Loading Warping Tug (SLWT) in order to test the equipment's maintenance readiness. AFSBn-NEA provides 7th TB (X) Soldiers the opportunity to exercise different platforms and practice rapid deployment procedures to support combatant commanders. Exercises like this do more than simply validate the readiness of APS watercraft and deployed Soldiers. On a broader spectrum, PR-19 actually tested reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) as an overall system.
Prior to PR-19, BD-6802 was at the National Maritime Center (NMC) due to major equipment failure. The main cable sheaves and bearings required replacement, cable inspection, and load testing was also required to ensure BD-6802 was available for PR-19. This was coordinated through the Sustainment Below Depot maintenance team for all QA checks and service requirements. AFSBn-NEA received directly reimbursable funding from U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) Watercraft Inspection Branch (WIB) for a $250K repair to the BD-6802 via a COSIS contract mod. If not completed, it would have been deferred to on condition cyclic maintenance (OCCM) and AFSBn-NEA would have experienced over 18 months of NMC time on the BD. PR-19 would have been directly affected, potentially canceling operations.
AFSBn-NEA's issue process in support of PR-19 started with a HQDA and AMC approved release of Army Prepositioned Assets. Once the authorization memo with list of approved equipment for release was received, AFSBn-NEA's Storage, Maintenance and quality assurance (QA)/quality control (QC) personnel began locating, inventorying and inspecting equipment to ensure 10/20 standards were met prior to scheduled issue date. Simultaneously, the requesting organization submitted a copy of assumption of command orders and a DA Form 1687 to AFSBn-NEA's accountable officer before items were to be issued/received. Once all documentation was in place, arrangements were made for AFSBn-NEA in conjunction with the receiving organization to conduct the equipment issue process that includes a joint inventory, equipment inspection and signing of hand receipts.
PR-19 proves Army watercraft is ready at a moment's notice. The goal is to draw the BD within a 48-hour period, but APS-4 was able to issue the BD to 7th TB (X) in under 24 hours. This solidified AFSBn-NEA's systems and procedures for issuing equipment for incoming units in case of potential conflicts. Upon the completion of the BD draw, personnel went straight into COSIS and assisted AFSBn-NEA through the exercise of multiple platforms. Personnel from 7th TB (X) received valuable training on different platforms of the same series Army Watercraft Systems (AWS) they are assigned to at home station. This served to broaden their overall watercraft experience because no two platforms are exactly the same. Concurrently, Soldiers cross-trained on different platforms to increase licensing readiness within the unit.
With any exercise, events are often time-compressed, and this was the case with PR-19. During the course of the BIREP, 7th TB (X) assisted AFSBn-NEA in completing 60 days of work in just a 10-day period. Soldiers operated and stressed 10 platforms in support of APS-4 COSIS initiatives which validated readiness levels for the INDOPACOM region. 7th TB (X) and AFSBn-NEA Soldiers' efforts during the BIREP and COSIS helps strategic planners understand the capabilities of AWS for contingency operations.
While supporting APS-4 initiatives, 7th TB (X) Soldiers were able to conduct internal mission essential task (MET) training to maintain their operational readiness. This dedicated time to train was a force multiplier for both units, as it provided unconstrained time to perform within their military occupational specialties, which consists of 88K (Watercraft Operator), 88L (Watercraft Engineer), and 88H (Cargo Specialist). The BD completed 12 lifts which increased a junior crew's proficiency on the platform while simultaneously exercising a strategic asset showing the platform's readiness to assist combatant commanders as needed. The ST crew exercised two platforms, which enabled AFSBn-NEA to expedite their annual usage process.
Throughout the 10 days of training, the ST crews conducted hip, stern, and push tow training. The most impressive feat was the movement of one Landing Craft Utility (LCU-2000) within the bay which helped build the crew's confidence. It was a confidence booster because the LCU is one of the largest pieces of watercraft and this stressed the ST to support maintenance objectives for AFSBn-NEA. The MWT crews conducted sea trials of six MWTs, and one SLWT which helped AFSBn-NEA by putting over 50 hours on the vessels and more effectively stressing their capability. The crews conducted hip tow training and allowed their junior Soldiers to operate the vessels. This helped them learn systems and functions for when they eventually become coxswains. The crews loaded mini-containers on the MWTs and transported them across the bay to exercise pier side operations. The MWT crews also helped AFSBn-NEA personnel break down MWTs while dry docked, and Soldiers will be able to use these techniques at the 7th TB (X)'s home station of Fort Eustis, Virginia, if the need arises.
The support from AFSBn-NEA, and U.S. Army Pacific Command (USARPAC) provided a great training opportunity for 7th TB (X) Soldiers and showcased AWS capability. At the same time, AFSBn-NEA was able to exercise its issue and draw procedures, and conduct COSIS in an expedited amount of time for multiple platforms, which freed them to conduct maintenance on other items which needed more attention.
In the end, this exercise proves the relevancy of AWS. The capability these platforms bring to the fight is astronomical. If a downed LCU needs to be recovered, an ST can salvage it. The BD has the capability to save the DOD millions of dollars a year in contracted lift costs. The MWTs are the core behind moving causeway pieces in support of Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore (JLOTS). AFSBn-NEA BIREP and COSIS allowed 7th TB (X) Soldiers to gain valuable experience, while saving both time and money for APS-4. In the future, this exercise should be expanded to include LCU, LCM, and actual causeway pieces to fully exercise all equipment and provide additional training opportunities for Soldiers. The key is unencumbered training days, and AFSBn-NEA is able to provide this to 7th TB (X) Soldiers while simultaneously assisting AFSBn-NEA's overall objectives.
Capt. Joseph Waicunas is a logistics advisor for the U.S. Military Training Mission to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabai. He has served as company commander of 73rd Transportation Company (Floating Craft) where he contributed numerous prepositioned stock draws and joint logistics over-the-shore operations. He completed a Master of Arts degree in international relations. He has completed the Logistics Captains Career Course, Theater Sustainment Planners Course, and National Training Center Observer, Coach/Trainer Course.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Sabo is marine maintenance officer for Army Prepositioned Stock 4 (APS-4) at Watercraft Equipment Base, Yokohama North Dock, Japan. He is responsible for maintaining oversight of forward-based watercraft assets critical to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Army Pacific strategic, operational, contingency, humanitarian, and disaster-relief mission requirements.
This article was published in the January-March 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.