On 22 April 1991, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 450th Transportation Battalion (Movement Control) was in the US Army Reserve and activated at Manhattan, Kansas, on 16 September 1991. Its mission upon activation was to assist in the planning and execution of reception, staging, onward movement and integration of personnel or cargo; monitor, manage and execute the Transportation Movement Control Agency’s (TMCA) movement and port clearance plans and programs; monitor the use of containers located in the area of responsibility; coordinate with host nation authorities for cargo transfer coordinate with host nation for transportation support; perform the functions of movement control, transportation intelligence, highway regulation; and provide the command and control for movement control detachments, within a given theater of operation.1
The battalion, under the command of LTC Gary Major, and three detachments deployed to the Balkans from October 1997 to May 1998 in support of Operation Joint Guardian. The headquarters deployed to Tazsar, Hungary. The 312th, 625th, and 607th TC detachments deployed to Croatia where they conducted movement control, highway regulation, and container yard operations.
By 2002, Saddam Hussein failed to comply with the UN Resolution to verify that it had disarmed all efforts to build weapons of mass destruction. President George W. Bush tired of the UN’s inability to force compliance. While the United States took the lead to pressure Hussein into compliance, the Armed Forces prepared for what would happen if he did
The 3rd Transportation Agency Movement Control (TAMC) had sent a planning cell to Doha, Kuwait, in December 2001. LTC Dave Pollard, the active duty planner for the 3rd TAMC, developed the movement control plan and ordered resources that were needed. The movement control plan called for four movement control battalions to provide intransit visibility from the RSO through the advance of V Corps. The 53rd MCB, as the only active duty movement control battalion in the plan, would arrive first and establish control over the RSO mission. The critical nodes of transportation included the port of Au Shuyabah for equipment, Kuwaiti Naval Base (KNB) for ammunition, Doha for cargo operations, and Kuwait City International Airport (KCIA) for passengers and some cargo. The command and control would set up at Camp Arifjan , which was still not completed.
The 450th MCB would arrive next, then establish their headquarters at Tallil during the ground war, with the 7th Transportation Group, and pick up movement control from the Kuwait-Iraq border. The 719th MCB, from Boston, and the 436th MCB, from New York, would follow in that order and pick up responsibility for movement control beyond the 450th MCB.
On 2 August 2002, LTC Mark W. Corson assumed command of the 450th Movement Control Battalion. He had previously been a commander the 77th TC Detachment (Contract Supervision) in the same battalion, so he had some movement control experience.2
By October, the war planners had outlined the forces that CENTCOM needed to execute its Operational Plan. Unfortunately, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld scrapped the OPLAN and the supporting Time Phased Force Deployment Data (TPFDD) in preference for an operation using fewer forces and Request For Force (RFF) packages. LTC Pollard had returned to the United States before his active duty replacement arrived. During that short absence of a movement control planner, Combined Force Land Component Command (CFLCC) submitted their modified requirements. The movement control plan had been reduced to just two movement control battalions. Because of NOBLE EAGLE and Enduring Freedom commitments, the 436th and 719th MCBs were no longer available.
Detachment 3 of the 450th MCB mobilized on 2 January 2003 with four Soldiers commanded by MSG Eugene Jolly. Detachment 1 mobilized 30 January with nine Soldiers commanded by MAJ Steve Comstock and deployed to theater in mid-February. They became the forward element for the 450th MCB. They set up initial operations at Camp Arifjan and LTC Regina Grant, Commander of the 53rd MCB, attached two active duty MCTs, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to the 450th MCB. She gave Comstock these MCTs because they had the best equipment. On D+2, 22 March, they crossed the border with 377th TSC and established operations at Tallil Air Base. Comstock tasked the 329th MCT, commanded by CPT Angela Greenwald, to establish the aerial passenger/cargo terminal at Tallil Airbase. He tasked the 261st TC Detachment, commanded by CPT Brian Rochelle, to establish a theater convoy control point and trailer transfer/transload point at CEDAR. These were the first two theater transportation nodes established along MSR Tampa. SFC Shoemaker became the liaison officer with the USMC.3
The battalion main body and six detachments mobilized on 10 February 2003. As their home station was in Manhattan, KS only 13 miles from their mobilization station at Fort Riley, they were told to hold at home station for two weeks. During this time a major battle ensued over automation resources. The 89th Regional Readiness Command (the peacetime headquarters) G6 was issuing 4 laptop computers and 2 printers to each battalion. The 450th Chief of Highway Traffic, MAJ Alan Foskett, discovered through consultation with the 53rd MCB already in theater, however, that the battalion needed a minimum of 24 computers to support both the classified and unclassified networks. A movement control battalion is in the management and communication business and relies on computers to do its job. The 89th demanded justification for such a large number of computers and Major Foskett went to work completing a full automation requirements study. To her credit the 89th G6, when presented with the requirements from operating units in theater, came up with all the resources required and set the battalion up for success.
The battalion moved to Fort Riley and validated without any problems or delays. They conducted training in the Military Decision Making Process while at Fort Riley. This would enable them to take a more deliberate approach to decision making and integrate input from the executors, thus winning their commitment to the solution.4 Following validation the battalion languished at Fort Riley for three more weeks.
The frustration came from the fact that BG Thomas Robinson, Commander of the 3rd TAMC, said he needed the 450th MCB in Kuwait as soon as possible, but air transportation was not readily available. The battalion personnel waited for available flights until April. To compound the problem, their equipment was packed for transportation by sea, but they received a call that they had 24 hours to repack. They would deploy half their equipment by air and half by sea. On 1 April, the personnel flew out on a C141 and a C17. The C17 with the equipment and just two passengers arrived in Kuwait without any problems. The C141, however, conveniently broke down in Mildenhall, England, the place where the plane had originated.5
The main body finally arrived in Kuwait on 6 April and moved to Camp Arifjan. The next day, LTC Corson drove forward with BG Robinson to Tallil Airbase. At that time BG Robinson’s Headquarters was at Arifjan, while he lived and worked at the APOD. He commuted back and forth. At Tallil, the two commanders linked up with MAJ Comstock and the 450th MCB forward element. LTC Corson was surprised with amount of life support that Comstock had acquired. The forward element had arrived with nothing, but had drawn four HMMVs from Prepo stocks, and picked up tents and other life support equipment from what tumbled off of the “gypsy caravan” that rolled through the desert on the first day of the ground war.6
BG Robinson and LTC Corson met with LTC Jeffrey Helmick, Commander of the 6th Battalion, at CEDAR. They learned that the MCT at Cedar and the 6th Battalion did not talk with each other. The MCT collocated with 6th Battalion had tasking authority for trucks, but communication was completely broken. Their communications did not have long distance capability. The forward movement control element did not initially have any communications to control traffic. They had to use the radios of 6th Battalion to contact their higher headquarters or adjacent MCTs of the 53rd MCB. The 6th Battalion, on the other hand, had the capability to accurately track their convoys with MTS. During that meeting, Corson took steps to build Helmick’s confidence in movement control. Corson made the MCT move their tent next to that of the battalion TOC. They coordinated to hold daily meetings between the MCT and the truck battalion’s movement staff. This sharing of information improved the accuracy of the MCT tracking.7
LTC Corson remained with his forward element at Tallil while the main body closed up two days later. The 339th MCT and the 32nd Cargo Documentation Detachments (both from Corson’s peacetime command in Manhattan, KS) deployed on 15 April and arrived in Kuwait the next day. The 339th MCT (Highway Regulating), commanded by MAJ Richard Panzarella, was assigned to area movement control and highway regulating around Tallil. SGT Juan Franco produced quality road maps of the MSR and ASRs in Iraq and Kuwait since he had a degree in graphic design.8
The 53rd MCB had responsibility for all movement control in Kuwait and the 450th had responsibility for the nodes along MSR Tampa in Iraq up to the V Corps rear boundary. The 27th MCB was supposed to assume responsibility for movement control in the V Corps area of operation but its headquarters had not deployed from Camp Victory, Kuwait. Until the arrival of the 450th main body, theater movement control in Iraq was provided by only 14 Soldiers with very limited communications. Simply stated, the system was broken and movement control was not well regarded or respected9
LTG David D. McKiernan, Commander of CFLCC, had made the conscious decision that he would accept a degree of risk by forward loading the combat elements and back loading the logistic elements.10
While advancing, combat elements did not care about convoy clearances or traffic control. They went where they wanted. Consequently, the MCB did not have any visibility of battle space in the early part of the ground war. The truck battalions knew what was on their trucks, how many and where they were but the MCT collocated with them assumed that the information provided to them by the 53rd MCB was accurate and did not confirm it with the 6th Battalion. The MCT personnel did not know that trucks, cargo and destinations changed or were delayed enroute. This left the MCT looking as if it had no control over movement control.11
As the ground war progressed, the 450th MCB had to establish movement control at each new node. The management of movement control at each node required more Soldiers than any one MCT provided by MTOE. Thus LTC Corson, like the 53rd MCB in Kuwait, had to combine several MCTs, and he wanted a single point of contact and a commander at each one. By 9 April, BG Jack Stultz with his 143rd TRANSCOM (Forward) and 7th Transportation Group (Forward) had established Convoy Support Center (CSC) Scania (originally named Escambia after the county in Florida) along MSR Tampa (Highway 1). Corson needed an Area MCT reinforced with a Highway Regulating Team to provide movement control at CSC Scania. Believing that there would also be trailer transfer point at Scania, Corson needed a cargo documentation team there. He assigned the 312th and 607th MCTs and the 32nd Cargo Documentation Detachment that he brought with him to the first movement control task force, under the command of MAJ Grady Sessoms. Corson, being a university professor when not in the Army, named the task forces after each commander’s alma mater. Sessoms had graduated from the University of North Carolina, so he commanded TF Tarheel.12
Elements of the 3rd ID (M) had seized control of the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) on 4 April and this became the next transportation node where Corson needed to establish movement control. The 265th MCT from Fort Lewis Washington, commanded by CPT John Doss, had just arrived but their equipment was on a ship somewhere at sea. Corson drove him up to BIAP for a reconnaissance. Corson told Doss, “Here’s a HMMV with MTS, and a field phone. You can stay in this building and the Air Force has agreed to feed you. Make it work.” V Corps pulled their Port MCT out but left their cargo transfer platoon until a platoon from the 6th Battalion replaced it. Doss assumed responsibility for movement control at BIAP with one HMMV and one field phone. Everything else he had to scrounge. The 43rd ASG, commanded by COL Sharon Duffy, from Fort Carson, became the main theater customer at BIAP. The 265th had just redeployed from Afghanistan, reconstituted in 75 days, and deployed to theater. In 75 days at BIAP they processed 1750 flights, with 23,000 passengers, and 24,500 tons of cargo.13
As more MCTs arrived, LTC Corson sent the 969th MCT from Bellville, IL under the command of CPT Kalen Finefrock and the 561st MCT from Springfield, MO under the command of CPT Valen Koger to replace TF Tarheel at Scania. These teams upgraded the convoy control point at Scania and began extended roadspace surveillance patrols on some of the most dangerous roads in the southern portion of the Sunni Triangle. The teams conducted over 200 patrols, facilitated the recovery of 30 vehicles, and used MTS to call in 10 medical evacuation missions. They also provided escort-guides for critical theater sustainment convoys. The convoy control point processed approximately 6000 convoys with 63,000 plus vehicles and 137,000 personnel while it was a theater operation.
The 7th Transportation Group was about to open a railhead at Gharma and Corson wanted to send Sessoms’ task force there. With the port of Um Qsar under coalition control, they wanted to see if they could utilize the railroad that originated from there. V Corps considered any railhead near the fighting at Baghdad too vulnerable and Gharma was closer to Fallujah. What no one foresaw was that Fallujah posed its own threat. Sessom’s TF Tarheel deployed with 377th TSC Fwd and 7th Group to Gharma and established a railhead and trailer transfer/transload point. TF Tarheel had two highway regulation teams, Major Tim Masson’s 607th from Manhattan, KS and CPT Kim Burch’s 823rd from Missoula, MT. MAJ Sessoms tasked the HRTs with 24 hour road space patrols. The HRTs went out with two unarmored HMMVs and eight soldiers patrolling the roads between Falloujah and Baghdad. In one instance CPT Burch’s team came across a convoy that had just been attacked by small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire. Her team helped the convoy commander reestablish command and control, called in a Medevac, assisted in recovery and escorted the convoy to the destination. The HRT’s superior communications with MTS made them very useful.
LTC Corson also tasked CPT Kieth Engler’s newly arrived 839th MCT, from Perrine, FL, to provide cargo documentation at the Um Qsar railhead, even though the port was a British operation. The team, operating from Camp Arifjan, escorted food from the Public Warehouse Corporation (PWC) in Kuwait to Um Qsar and eventually made good friends with the Brits who allowed them to establish their residence at Um Qsar. The 7th Group set up operations on one side and the MCT was on the other side of the railhead. The 839th pioneered the use of VISTARS satellite tracking devices on the Iraqi operated trains. VISTARS was a key factor in maintaining in-tranit visibility of the trains. Theater started shipping MREs and bottled water in containers on the trains to Gharma. For a time this reduced the load on the overburdened truck units. Then the insurgents started targeting the trains and reduced its usefulness.
The 607th Highway Regulating Team worked out of Gharma until LSA Seitz opened just north of BIAP. Corson sent them to Camp Seitz to perform the mission of providing ground movement control support for large number of Army units based on BIAP.16
The 450th maintained a liaison and logistics presence at Camp Arifjan. CW2 Peter Castro, the property book officer, had the task of welcoming the new teams into theater and preparing them to deploy north. This preparation included linking up personnel with vehicles and equipment, drawing ammunition such as rockets and grenades, briefing the soldiers on the mission, and unit preparation for combat. A critical task was the installation of the Mobile Tracking System (MTS) in the unit vehicles.
The 450th Battalion had never seen MTS until it was issued to them when they arrived in Kuwait. MTS when connected with the PLGR provided a display map of where the vehicle was at any time. The headquarters could also track convoys with MTS. The system also provided satellite electronic messaging capability. MTS was first fielded to units at Forts Carson, Bliss, and Sill beginning in May 2002. The 6th Battalion saw MTS for the first time when its truck companies from Fort Hood arrived. The MTS sales representative was in Kuwait and the 6th Battalion secured the funds to purchase as many systems as it could.17
CFLCC had a contractor cell that installed the equipment and provided basic training on the systems. They worked 24-7 and had the HMMVs and base stations fielded in about 48 hours per unit.18
The 450th MCB used MTS to save lives. SINGCARS radios did not have the range to reach the distances that the convoys traveled. If people needed a medevac, they normally had to drive to a relay station, established by the MPs every 23 kilometers. With MTS, the units called the 450th MCB and they, in turn, called for the medevacs. No fewer than four Soldiers’ lives were saved by using the MTS system.19
Units also complained that they would file a Transportation Movement Request (TMR) and the 450th MCB would deny it. The combat units had rear detachments in Kuwait which would report that their containers had arrived at the TDC. The forward combat elements then went to 450th MCB and asked why they could not get them. “We did not have enough assets to move everything.” The 450th MCB controlled the truck assets and for six weeks, they did not even have enough trucks to bring their own containers forward. Containers were priority 9A, while water and MREs were priority 1A.
Priority was to feed the Corps. For the first part of the war, all the 450th MCB moved forward was Class I, food and water. HETs were centrally controlled by the 7th Group in Kuwait. When the war slowed down and the 32nd Group arrived with more trucks, then they could deliver containers forward. There were complaints that the trucks delivered containers to the wrong destinations. It took as much as a week before the container would reach its destination but by then the units had moved. The combat units jumped (relocated) all the time.20
The 27th MCB did not have a very good relation with BG Fletcher, the commander of 3rd COSCOM. They held their headquarters at Camp Victory in Kuwait until late in the war. After Camp Anaconda opened at Ballad, LTC Corson visited COL John Gardner, Commander of the 7th Corp Support Group Rear (CSG-R). Gardner took LTC Corson to meet with BG Charles W. Fletcher, Jr., Commander of the 3rd COSCOM. Fletcher told him, “I’m glad to see you. We have serious problems with feeding the Corps.” For 40 minutes, he then chewed Corson out on how theater movement control screwed things up. Fletcher had lost all confidence in theater movement control. That is why he felt Operation Sustainer Push served his needs better. Sustainer Push was a 181st Transportation Battalion operation dedicated to delivering Class IX parts. The battalion established one medium truck company in Kuwait and another at Camp Anaconda with a TTP at Tallil.21
Corson found that the key to making movement control effective was to gain the trust of the customers and the mode operators. One gained there trust by proving that movement control added value to the operation and made their lives better. When the 32nd Transportation Group arrived in May, Corson made a big effort to help the staff and forward battalion commander on their leader's recon. He sold them on the idea that he was there partner and part of the family, rather than a competitor and an outsider. Eventually the 32nd commander, COL Luis Visot, said proudly that the 450th MCB was his shipping agent. If you wanted a 32nd Group truck, you went through the 450th to get it.22
The 339th HRT also provided security for LTC Corson when he visited the nodes. Everyone liked LTC Corson because he was always out there with his Soldiers. The railroad proved too vulnerable to interdiction to try and push cargo. BG Robinson flew in to Tallil with a female major and other Soldiers. His group had three or four heat casualties at Tallil who had to go to Combat Support Hospital.
Around 7 May, BG Robinson flew in to BIAP. LTC Corson met him and they visited the MCT there and then drove BG Robinson to visit Gharma. Corson liked visiting Gharma much better than Anaconda because the Soldiers were friendlier so he often remained overnight (RON) there. The caravan of three HMMVs rolled into Gharma the last afternoon of its operation. V Corps realized that things were heatting up in the Suni Triangle and could not protect the isolated railhead. They decided to abandon it.23
LTC Corson and BG Robinson parked their HMMVs to meet with the Soldiers. The movement control specialists (88N) had all their battle gear on and were running around with AT-4 anti-tank rockets getting ready for a fight. They had their equipment in evenly spaced piles. All the truckers and movement controllers established fighting positions. For the first time, for the movement controllers, hand grenades were broken out of boxes and issued, and AT-4s were pulled from central stocks and issued to the troops. It was not a sight one saw every day. BG Robinson and LTC Corson had never seen 88Ns preparing for a battle before. 1LT Katherine Numerick, of the 339th MCT, observed that the soldiers were friendly but not as casual as before.24
As soon as they arrived, MAJ Sessoms ran up to his commander and said, "Sir, you and the general have got to get the fuck out of here. Intel says we're in for an attack tonight." This greeting surprised LTC Corson because the troops were usually happy to see him. The Military Intelligence personnel had received a tip from a local that local militants in Fallujah were planning an attack for that night. The local combat forces dispatched a platoon of Bradleys to assist and everybody started digging in, a QRF was established, and the perimeter improved. Prior to the predicted Gharma attack, Sessoms had watched two Iraqis sitting on the side of road and not sell a thing. Grady believed that they were scoping them out. Numerick was told to stand fast and not take down their equipment. She talked with the only other female officer in Gharma and gained the impression that operations there were very different. The command group spent about an hour walking around talking with Soldiers. BG Robinson went out and met with the Soldiers while the preparations continued.25
LTC Corson’s personal security detail wanted to stay for the fight as they had been repeatedly shot at but were never able to return fire due to no solid target. CPT Benjamin J. “BJ” Vincent, a former infantryman, was the HHD Commander and Corson’s fair haired boy. Vincent and his commander always rode together and the lieutenant acted as Corson’s personal body guard. Corson used to joke, “I was never worried that I would have to kill any one. BJ would do that for me.” Corson preferred to have stayed, but common sense dictated getting his commanding general to a more secure location. Robinson also wanted to stay, but knew his presence would be a distraction and liability. The preparations and reinforcement by the cavalry deterred the insurgents from attacking. Riding back in the soft-sided HMMV, with no doors, Corson observed that Robinson was a little nervous. The general felt better when Corson gave him his M-16. The brigadier general rode in the rear passenger seat of a soft-sided HMMV, M-16 at the ready, and scanning for targets. Numerick’s HMMV drove behind LTC Corson’s HMMV. The attack never materialized.26
LTC Corson and BG Robinson then drove to Camp Anaconda and visited BG Fletcher. They talked about the communication between the movement control battalions in Iraq. BG Fletcher said his 27th MCB could provide movement control of anything in Iraq. He wanted the Corps’ rear boundary pushed back to the Kuwaiti border. They discussed a transfer of authority (TOA) between the 450th and the 27th MCBs. The 27th MCB would take control of some of the 450th MCB’s teams to include the teams that were at Cedar, Scania and BIAP, to include the 607th HRT and the air team at BIAP.27
CPT Numerick was in the TOC when the decision was made to close Cedar I and relocate. Cedar II was being built as a berm within a berm, a much better location than Cedar I and closer to Tallil. CPT Rochelle was progressively bringing people back to Tallil to give them a break. She heard a conversation between MAJ Luton and CPT Rochelle about when to close Cedar I. They closed it too early. The fuel bag farm was still there and they had to have a team there to remind convoys where to top off. They had to go back out and reestablish the check point at Cedar I. Her team was fresh and would go down with members of other units and reestablish CP Bravo for two days. Rochelle decided that since none to the others had been there, he would go. They stopped convoys and checked for convoy clearance numbers and asked where they were going. Rochelle showed Numerick around Cedar. They drove around at night. She remembered plowing through “moon dust” up to the axels on her HMMV. They visited the infantry on overwatch and let them know that the MCT was there.28
MAJ Sessoms’ TF Tarheel returned from Gharma to open Cedar II. The XVIII Airborne Corps also wanted their two MCTs, given to Corson by Grant, back. The XVIII Airborne Corps wanted to reconstitute them for their subsequent deployment to Afghanistan. They were the first to leave, so Corson sent Sessoms’ task force to Cedar II. LT Eply was employed in civilian life by the Ford Motor Company, where he had established several transportation nodes for parts for just-in-time delivery. These nodes ran like truck terminals. He received the task to establish the TTP at Cedar II. They established a beautiful TTP based upon his civilian experience.29
The 450th MCB had been responsible for theater transportation movement control operations in southern Iraq from the time of the invasion in early March up until mid July. The battalion's 18 movement control teams opened and operated movement control operations at the first two airfields in Iraq, Tallil and BIAP; the first two railheads, Gharma and Um Qsar; the first logistical support area, and the first convoy support center. These teams coordinated and tracked over 6000 convoys during the first 90 days of the war. These convoys included almost 3300 supply and fuel convoys carrying 43,300 truck loads of supplies and over 29 million gallons of fuel to sustain the warfighters. The two airfields handled over 2000 flights with 30,000 tons of cargo and 30,000 passengers. All of this was accomplished under extremely austere conditions with limited communications and under constant threat of enemy action.30
By the time the 450th MCB had 100 days in Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force 7 stood up to assume control of operations in Iraq from CFLCC and directed it to return to Kuwait since V Corps wanted control of everything in Iraq. Although some theater assets still operated in Iraq, the 450th MCB moved back to Camp Arifjan on 15 July. The 53rd MCB was still scheduled to participate in the CENTCOM Exercise BRIGHT STAR. There it conducted a ten-day relief in place with the 53rd MCB to assume theater movement control operations of the Kuwaiti Area of Operations and from then on, V Corps ran the show in Iraq.31
In Kuwait, the 450th MCB provided movement control services at multiple nodes. MAJ Vivian Gaz commanded the 319th MCT from Dover, DE that provided area control for the main seaport of debarkation (SPOD) at As Shuiabah. The 319th cleared 23,000 pieces of equipment and 11,324 containers from the port during their time there. CPT Brett Swanke commanding the 80th MCT from Fort Hood, TX and CPT Stephanie Turos’ 94th MCT from Perrine, FL serviced the aerial port of debarkation (APOD) at Kuwait City International Airport. The APOD teams serviced 500 aircraft and received 60,000 passengers, 10,000 tons of cargo, and redeployed 55,000 Coalition troops in the months they were there. When the US government decided to institute the largest rest and relaxation program in US military history, the MCTs were instrumental in the planning and execution of a program that processed 65,000 additional passengers for two-week R and R leave trips. 1LT Altwan Grate and her 70th MCT from Fort Eustis, VA served the Kuwaiti Naval Base (KNB). KNB was a secondary port, but also served as the ammunition port with its own special set of problems. The 70th processed 6085 pieces of equipment and an undisclosed number of ammunition containers bound for the theater storage area at Camp Arifjan. The 823rd HRT returned to Kuwait with Corson and took over the MCT operation at the Theater Distribution Center (TDC). They became masters at burning radio frequency identification tags for the thousands of containers and pallets that left the TDC each week. CPT Christine Haffy’s 171st MCT form Fort Irwin, CA ran the critical convoy control station called NAVISTAR on the Kuwaiti/Iraq border. CPT Ted Arlauskas with his 569th MCT from Sherman Oaks, CA moved from Camp New York to Camp Arifjan. The 569th demonstrated again how movement control was a value added operation when the Army and latter Kellog, Brown, and Root material handling equipment operators asked his MCT to take tasking authority for MHE on Arifjan. The MCT could arrange for both MHE and trucks thus giving customers a one stop shop and relieving the MHE operators of the onerous task of customer service and scheduling. CPT David Hartwell’s 199th MCT from Upper Marlboro, MD provided Area services at Camp Doha. He also administered two major bus contracts for the Doha ITO. Finally, CPT Sherrell McNeal’s 958th MCT from Bellville, IL provided the area team for perhaps the most critical node in theater. The Public Warehouse Corporation was an enormous blue building complex in Kuwait that provided the majority of Kuwait’s wholesale food storage capacity. The PWC was theater class one point and the source of most of the food feeding all of the coalition forces in Iraq and Kuwait. McNeal’s team prepared the documentation for hundreds of trucks a day including the RFID tags that allowed the battalion and CJTF-7 to maintain in-transit visibility of the critical food shipments.
While the battalion and MCTs got all the recognition, the small Cargo Documentation teams played an important role. A CD team has eight soldiers led by a SSG. Their mission is to document cargo at terminals, but they have no life support, no officer, and rely on a larger unit to take care of them. LTC Corson (as had LTC Grant) decided these teams would best serve as part of a task force or in a reinforcing role to the headquarters. The 32nd CD Team from Manhattan, KS served in TF Tarheel throughout the war. The 200th CD team from Baltimore, MD under the command of SSG Darrel Hawkins did an excellent job of reinforcing the battalion operations center staff. The 569th CD Team from North Charleston, SC under SSG Sylvester Ishmael supported battalion operations at Camp Arifjan and also Kuwaiti Naval Base Operations. The 541st CD team from Manhattan, KS under SFC Roger Hammet had run the gate at Talill, moved down to Kuwait where they worked both the SPOD and the APOD. During the redeployment portion of the surge,1LT Jeffrey Eppley of the 312th MCT took the 541st and established MCT operations at Camp Victory where they supported the redeployment of the 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st Armored Division, and the 4th Infantry Division. Other CD teams made important contributions throughout the theater.
By the fall of 2003 many units had been in theater for six months or more and wanted to go home. The 377th TSC and 143rd TRANSCOM began to look at contracting out the movement control functions in Kuwait. Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) had enormous experience in the Balkans in providing both truck and movement control operations. The battalion began the transition of 13 Army movement control teams to contractor movement control teams from KBR. Mr. James White was the KBR project leader for the KBR teams. White was a retired 1SG with years of experience with the 1st Theater Movement Control Agency in Germany. Corson immediately both liked and trusted White as he proved to be extraordinarily competent. Corson briefed his staff that White was his “Deputy Commander 450th for KBR.” The 450th MCB eventually provided command and control for a mix of 20 active Army, Army Reserve, and contract movement control teams in Kuwait.32
LTC Grant left LTC Corson her order of merit list for the retrograde then told the MCTs when they were going home. This put Corson on the spot if he changed it. He told the MCTs that he was not obliged to follow her guidance but would make his decision based upon mission requirements.33 Then came word that the new policy was for soldiers to serve 365 days with “boots on the ground” or BOG. This policy upset many soldiers but the chaplains used grief counseling techniques to cushion the blow and everyone got on with the job.
Implementation of the 365 BOG was difficult. Units had been notified of their redeployment schedule, had received and trained their KBR replacements, and had begun the process required to depart theater. LTC Corson had to make a decision as to which units were too far into the process to halt it, and which were not. He made the decision after a meeting with his staff to discuss known pending and possible future missions. When the meeting concluded, he instructed his staff that no one would speak of the decision until he spoke personally to the commanders of each unit. Two of the commanders, MAJ Vivian Gaz and SFC Roger Hammett, had just finished a required redeployment briefing and stopped by the TOC before departing. LTC Corson spoke with them immediately, and like with all unit commanders, joined them in informing unit personnel of his decision, answering Soldiers’ questions.34
During the first week in July, the 339th MCT moved to Camp New York. They met up with the 569th HRT, from California, commanded by CPT Theodore Arlauskus. They had been at Camp New York under the 53rd MCB. The 339th MCT performed area control at Camp New York. The 339th had four officers. One officer who was a fire fighter had been sent to Camp Arifjan. 1LT Numerick was promoted to captain on 3 June but did not pin on the rank until September. She moved up to battalion and worked for the S-3 as his Current Operations while MAJ Luton became the Future Operations Officer. Numerick also became the Contract Officer Representative (COR) for the battalion.35
Fortunately for Corson, he now had a reserve of Army teams as KBR had taken over most of the fixed nodes. Corson would soon find he desperately needed these teams.
The Kuwaitis were outstanding allies having given the US the use of nearly half their country. However, the Kuwaitis became impatient and on occasion asserted themselves strongly. During the run up to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Meeting (a summit of Gulf leaders held in Kuwait City), the Kuwaitis notified the US that our C-130 aircraft would not be able to use KCIA and would have to divert to Ali Al Salem Airbase (AAS). Corson was summoned at 1600 hours to the headquarters where he was ordered to establish an Intra-Theater Air Passenger/Cargo Terminal at Ali Al Saleem able to handle 4000 passengers over the next four days. He was to have the terminal operational using the bare bones of a derelict facility in 18 hours. Corson summoned the staff who developed and issued a Frago to Vivian Gaz’s 319th MCT (reinforced by several other elements including the Air Force and KBR). The reinforced 319th had the terminal operational at Ali Al Saleem Air Base within 12 hours, and they did process over 3000 passengers in four days. The Ali Al Saleem operation went so well that CFLCC decided to establish a permanent Intra-Theater Air Passenger/Cargo Terminal on the foundation of the temporary operation. Gaz’s 319th MCT and Turos’ 94th MCT established the operation with more help from KBR and the Air Force. Tradition called for Gaz’s task force to be dubbed “Blue Hen” based on the mascot of her alma mater, but the smirks and chuckles killed that idea. Gaz and her troops dubbed the terminal “Area 51” and an artist among the troops made several impressive signs and a digital logo.
Two crises were brewing at the point. The Kuwaiti Government was very unhappy with what they perceived as the lack of control at the coalition border crossing point, and politically sensitive coalition forces were streaming into the Kuwait. Bringing in coalition forces from 30 countries only compounded the problem. Anytime anything major went wrong, they complained to their defense ministries and Corson’s chain of command caught hell all the way from the Secretary of Defense. The movement controllers did not treat them as a priority and did not understand the consequences of this.
Without warning to CFLCC, the Kuwaitis closed the border to contract convoys for two full days. Close to 70 contract trucks were stranded on the other side of the border in Safwan with no escort at night. This was a catastrophe waiting to happen as convoys were attacked for criminal motives and pilfered/vandalized everyday in Safwan. The fleet was by then 70% contracted trucks, and CJTF-7 would soon be eating emergency stocks of MREs. Additionally, there were hundreds of contract trucks dangerously stranded in Iraq. TF Gator out of Doha had the initial responsibility to prepare all their equipment to deploy forward. However, TF Gator did not have the resources to physically escort the coalition forces from Kuwait to their destinations in Iraq. The 450th MCB needed a highway regulating team at the Iraqi border fast but had none available. Corson turned to his trusted assistant, BJ Vincent, in an act of desperation to hastily organize a highway regulating team out of HHD personnel. The HHD elements were reinforced with Soldiers and vehicles drafted from other teams. Since BJ Vincent was a Kansas State alum, they called it Task Force Wildcat.36
LTC Corson told BJ, who was operating from Navistar, to go assess the situation and report. He saw the vulnerability, rallied the civilian third country national drivers together and used his own transporters and some helpful MPs to establish security. He then went and talked to the civil border guards at the Kuwaiti crossing at Abdally, only 1km from coalition crossing, and somehow convinced the border guards to let the convoy through despite the protests of the customs and immigration officials, who were from a different agency. A crowd had gathered threatening the trucks, so BJ established a skirmish line and bulled the convoy through the civil checkpoint. He rescued the trucks avoiding an incident in Safwan and avoided an international incident with the Kuwaitis. He and all his Soldiers were later awarded impact ARCOMs by BG Diamond. This is a classic example of how a movement control presence on the ground can intervene to facilitate the flow of traffic on the MSR because they have excellent and empowered leadership, and good communications. TF Wildcat became so well known that the follow-on commander insisted on retaining the name. Vivian Gaz's TF Blue Hen (University of Delaware), however, brought many chuckles. TF Wildcat saved the day. They provided escort/guides and never had anyone get lost, wounded, or killed. The political goodwill it generated was very useful.37
After the border closing incident, BG Diamond commanding 377th TSC Forward, told Corson to “get with the embassy guys” and find out what the Kuwaitis want to keep the border open. Corson and MAJ Allan Foskett partnered with Steve Carrig of the US Embassy to negotiate an understanding with the Kuwaitis. This situation was complex because the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior Border Security Department and Immigration Department had one agenda while the Kuwaiti Ministry of Finance Customs Agency had a separate agenda. Carrig and Corson found the Kuwaitis suspected the US military and contract truck drivers of smuggling alcohol, drugs, guns, prostitutes, and refugees across the border. The Kuwaitis were spending millions of dinar to build a state of the art civil crossing at Abdally and they wanted nothing less for customs and immigration control at the military crossing. Corson wrote a draft memorandum of understanding outlining what the US was willing to do, the generals blessed it, and the Embassy translated it into a legal document in Arabic and English.
Based on the pending agreement with the Kuwaiti government, the 450th MCB established border control operations at the Kuwait-Iraq border. The Battalion planned and oversaw the building of the $1.5 million Coalition Crossing border control station. Task Force Tarheel (including Chris Haffy’s 181st MCT) conducted border control operations including customs and immigration activities. TF Tarheel in concert with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior Border Security Force interdicted over $1,000,000 of illegal alcohol shipments and other contraband thus preventing a severe strain to US-Kuwaiti bi-lateral relations and contributing to the good order and discipline of coalition forces.38
The 450th MCB was also given command and control of the Army portion of the Bam Iranian Earthquake humanitarian aid mission. With no warning, the battalion arranged for trucks and materials handling equipment to transport medical supplies, blankets, and water from various locations in Kuwait to the Kuwait City International Airport in less than eight hours. The US Air Force was then able to transport over 70 tons of relief supplies from Kuwait to Iran in less than 24 hours.39
The 450th Movement Control Battalion was a key component of transportation operations in both the invasion of Iraq and the sustainment of subsequent security and stability operations.40
In August, the 3rd TAMC departed leaving 12 Soldiers under the control of COL Aaron Richardson. The 450th MCB then assumed the responsibility of the TAMC. CPT George Cruz assumed responsibility for running the Asset Allocation Board. The board consisted of an operations officer from each of the transportation battalions. Cruz wanted to receive his data directly from battalions and not the 32nd Group. The board met at 0800 and usually finished between 1000 and 1200 hours. It then published the requirements to each MCT by 1400. By 1600 and no later than 1800, SPC Broach called every unit that had submitted a TMR to let them know if they received their requests.41
It had become clear with the insurgency that the war was not going to end any time soon. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had extended units in country for one-year from they date they stepped their boots on the ground. These units would need to be replaced by similar units. Essentially, from the months of January through March, a surge of units would arrive to replace those ready to redeploy. The 450th MCB played a key role in surge planning. They knew that the “surge” would over-tax their capability and requested that HHD, 53rd MCB would redeploy to Kuwait to assist during those months. The 53rd MCB would run the APOD.42
A major headache during the deployment had been bus operations. MG Speakes told BG Diamond that he did not want the problems from the deployment to happen again and to come up with a plan for bus operations to be overseen by a field grade officer “Bus Czar.” The mission went to the 450th. LTC Corson tasked his signal officer, Major John Miller, to be the theater bus czar. The 569th HRT under CPT Ted Arlauskas had been relieved by KBR as the Arifjan MCT, thus the 569th stood up the theater bus operations center in the 450th TOC in Building 5. Miller, Arlauskas, and their bus operations center managed over 300 busses that conducted 4,131 missions during the “surge.”
From July 2003 to March 2004 the 450th MCB processed more than 11,000 transportation movement requests resulting in over 14,000 convoys with over 222,000 vehicle loads of supplies and personnel movements. The bulk of these movements were during the rotational "surge" of forces into and out of Iraq in the transition between OIF 1 and OIF 2. This massive movement of forces involving 310,000 US and Coalition troops and their equipment was the largest and most complex military movement since World War II.43
Having completed nearly one-year “boots-on-the-ground,” the 450th MCB redeployed from Kuwait to the United States on 13 March 2004.
1 ARTEP 55-604-MTP, FM 55-1, FM 55-10.
2 Telephone interview with LTC Mark Corson by Richard Killblane, 14 January 2005.
3 Corson interview, 14 January 2005 and Interview with LTC Regina Grant by Richard Killblane, 9 December 2004 and telephone interview with CPT Kathrine Numerick by Richard Killblane, 3 February 2005.
4 Corson interview 25 January.
5 Corson interview, 14 January 2005.
6 Corson interview, 14 January 2005.
7 Robinson interview and conversation with LTC Jeffrey Helmick, 24 May 2005.
8 Numerick interview.
9 Corson interview, 14 January 2005.
10 Corson interview, 14 January 2005.
11 Corson interview, 14 January 2005.
12 Email interview with Corson by Richard Killlbane, 24 and 25 January 2005 and telephone interview with Corson, 26 January 2005.
13 Corson interview, 14 and 26 January.
14 Corson interview, 26 January.
15 Corson interview, 26 January.
16 Corson interview, 26 January.
17 “OCOT Significant Activities Report,” March 2002.
18 Corson email, 25 January.
19 Corson interview, 14 January.
20 Corson interview, 14 January 2005.
21 Corson interview, 14 January 2005.
22 Corson interview, 14 January 2005.
23 Numerick interview and BG Robinson interview.
24 Numerick interview and BG Robinson interview.
25 Numerick interview and Corson interview, 24 and 26 January.
26 Numerick interview and Corson interview, 24 January.
27 BG Robinson interview.
28 Numerick interview.
29 Corson interview, 26 January.
30 “Summary of Service of the 450th Movement Control Battalion in Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
31 Corson interview, 14 January and 26 January.
32 “Summary of Service.”
33 Numerick interview.
34 Kate Numerick email to Richard Killblane, October 18, 2005
35 Numerick interview.
36 Corson email, 24 January.
37 Corson email, 24 January.
38 “Summary of Service.”
39 “Summary of Service.”
40 “Summary of Service.”
41 Numerick interview.
42 Numerick interview.
43 “Summary of Service.”