Movement of more than 10 Army units’ worth of equipment from APS sites in Zutendaal, Belgium; Dulmen, Germany, and Eygelshoven, Netherlands, hundreds of miles south to Leghorn Army Depot, Italy, recently demonstrated the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s proficiency working with host nations and ally military organizations to coordinate anchor points and hit targeted deadlines.
The Army Prepositioned Stock strategy reduces deployment timelines, improves deterrence capabilities and provides additional combat power for contingency operations. In Europe, multinational cooperation and interoperability ensure the APS-2 program delivers on its promise of rapid mobility and ability to deter would-be aggressors.
Tasked in September 2021 with moving nearly 700 pieces — containers with enough equipment to outfit a base support battalion and a light infantry battalion, trucks and weapons of war—within a narrow time-frame, the 405th Army Field Support Brigade turned to the 21st TSC Theater Movements Center for transportation solutions.
Capt. Lemar Baliwag, Commercial Transportation Branch Officer in Charge, 21st TSC TMC, eyed the target, assessed available options and leveraged the TMC’s relationship with the Movement Coordination Center Europe to engage partner nations’ military.
“One big challenge was the quick reaction time,” said Baliwag. “The suspense to begin movements was nearly immediate.”
Having firmly established policies, procedures and relationships in place with the MCCE and Allies cleared the way for expedited movement, achieving in a few days what could normally take weeks to accomplish.
“In our transportation quiver, the MCCE provides a significant arrow for large muscle movements,” said John Gallagher, Supervisory Traffic Management Specialist, 21st TSC TMC. “The MCCE provides the 21st TSC with added capabilities for transportation solutions from up to 28 member nations. This capability and access to capacity allows the clearance of thousands of pieces of cargo from various locations and ports throughout the EUCOM theater, in some cases simultaneously.”
In this case, the Netherlands Ministry of Defense and Denmark’s MOD’s Joint Movement and Transportation Organization provided offers of support via host nation contracts. Utilizing Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement Orders, the two Ally nations’ militaries were able to contract with commercial vendors to move the equipment on behalf of the U.S. Army.
This arrangement not only expedited movement, but contained costs, as ACSA orders allows vendors to charge only what they would charge the host nation’s military.
It also built partner capacity by providing Ally nations a training opportunity in moving a large force forward, and operationalized and validated procedures designed to enhance interoperability.
“It showcased the Danish Host Nation capacity and the Netherlands’ military relationship with their commercial vendor to be able to execute a mission quickly,” said Maj. Stephen Coley, 21st TMC Current Operations Officer in Charge. “We increased interoperability with those countries instead of just leveraging a commercial company from one of our European tenders.”
If interoperability is based on people, processes and technology, Rhonda Pitt, 21st TSC TMC Transportation Specialist, has her hand in all three. She is also an MCCE Inland Surface Transport Officer, and is the liaison between the U.S. and host nation support at MCCE, tapping into the resources and capabilities of MCCE’s 28 member nations to augment U.S. transportation capabilities.
“Interoperability is the ability of host nations and their military organizations to operate in conjunction with each other,” said Pitt. “Where one falls short, the others can support and are able to supplement and strengthen their capabilities.”
According to Pitt, utilizing the MCCE and ACSAs allows the U.S. to shoot straight through the red tape associated with such things as hazardous materials, weapons of war, escorts and other restrictions that often causes transportation delays. Gallagher noted that the MCCE directly enables Speed of Assembly and Cross Border Military Mobility for U.S. and NATO forces. He sees the MCCE as a strategic enabler to leverage when planning intra-theater transportation moves.
“We do so many cross-border operations, and each nation knows their own regulations and policies better than anyone else,” said Pitt. “They are going to tell us exactly what we need to get our cargo from point A to point B.”
Recognizing, utilizing and helping to build host nation capabilities enhances readiness in the theater.
“This is not our continent,” said Pitt. “We don’t have our CONUS resources here, and we send so much cargo and so many troops to Europe. Using the MCCE gives us access to those 28 member nations — and we’ve built relationships so they can help us. It offers us a lot of flexibility when it comes to large scale movements.”
The U.S. National Defense Strategy prioritizes investment in prepositioned forward stocks and munitions, strategic mobility assets and partner and allied support. The 21st TSC TMC and 405th AFSB are leading the way in demonstrating the value and validity of the APS-2 strategy and multi-national and cross-military coordination.