1395th Transportation Terminal Brigade
In late February through early March 2000, the Port's Pierce County Terminal got a "military make-over" as the U.S. Army Reserve's 1395th Transportation Terminal Brigade took over operations at the terminal as part of a massive training exercise intended to simulate mobilization, soldier processing, and deployment to a combat theater.
Over 600 service members from Washington, Idaho and Oregon were training for the operation, at Fort Lewis, and at Yakima Firing Center, for a 70th Regional Support Command, Seattle, joint service exercise called "Puget Thunder." The mass-scale exercise was a first for the 70th, and troops involved belonged not only to the Army Reserve, but also to the Army National Guard, Active Army, Navy Reserve, Coast Guard, as well as Navy and Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel.
At the port, Army Reserve trucks were "rolled-on" the Cape Island, (a fast sealift ship owned by Military Sealift Command), in a mock demonstration of preparing and loading equipment for an overseas voyage to a third-world, unimproved port. The ship is one of two that are normally berthed along Tacoma's Schuster Parkway, at the Sperry Ocean Dock.
A total of 139 vehicles were staged and then loaded onto the Cape Island during the exercise. Once on the 684-foot-long ship, the vehicles were tracked by the 647th Transportation Detachment (Cargo Documentation), Tacoma.
Vehicle specifications and ownership from logistics markings or "logmar" labels were transcribed to a transportation control movement document that was placed in each vehicle. Vehicles pegged to sail to and land at Fort Lewis' Solo Point on Army Reserve landing craft, mechanized and landing craft, utility (LCM/LCU) vessels operated by the 467th Transportation Co., Tacoma, as well as a logistic support vessel (LSV) from the 805th Transportation Co., Tacoma, were loaded by the Navy's Cargo Handling Battalion- 5, (CHB-5) from Portland, Oregon.
Using the ship's on-board crane, the CHB-5 team safely and efficiently slung and lifted a total of 21 vehicles including "humvees," two-and-a-half-ton trucks, and ambulances to the landing craft moored in the water approximately fifty feet below.
The Port of Tacoma also proved to be an excellent site for training roll-off operations at a modern port. The 1395th coordinated the roll-off of 118 vehicles destined for Fort Lewis and further Puget Thunder events. Other agencies helping in port operations included the Coast Guard who provided port security, and the Navy Auxiliary who provided consultation and training to both 1395th leaders and line troops during terminal operations.
More than 1,100 soldiers and sailors took part in Operation Puget Thunder, a joint service mobilization and deployment exercise coordinated by the 70th Regional Support Command (RSC), Fort Lawton, Wash. The two-week long exercise, which was startled but not stopped by a 6.7-magnitude earthquake in the Puget Sound area on Feb. 28, simulated the mobilization and deployment of Army equipment and troops to a corps rear area in a major theater of war. That major theater of war was actually Yakima Training Center, about 160 miles east of Seattle.
In addition to some 600 Army Reserve soldiers from 70th RSC units in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, Operation Puget Thunder also involved men and women from other Army Reserve units, the active Army, Army National Guard, Navy Reserve, Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary. Training took place at Yakima, Fort Lewis and the Port of Tacoma, Wash.
The exercise began with four Army Reserve units being alerted at their home stations. These units were the 671st Engineer Company, Portland, Ore., the 396th Combat Support Hospital, Spokane, Wash., the 175th Transportation Company, Tacoma, Wash., and, from the eastern United States, the 357th Chemical Company, Camden, N.J.
These units moved to Fort Lewis, where their vehicles were weighed and soldier readiness processing done by the 2122nd Garrison Support Unit, Fort Lewis, supported by the 6350th U.S. Army Hospital. More than 675 Army Reservists were processed. This meant reviewing each soldier's personnel, medical and dental records and ensuring the files were up to date and completed accurately.
At the Port of Tacoma, the 1395th Transportation Terminal Brigade from Seattle took command of the Pierce County Terminal there. Along with six of its subordinate units, the Navy Reserve and the Coast Guard, the 1395th took over port operations. A total of 148 vehicles were loaded onto a roll-on/roll-off ship, the SS Cape Island of the Military Sealift Command, as well as onto Army Reserve landing craft of the 175th Transportation Company.
The Navy Reserve's Cargo Handling Battalion -5 from Portland, Ore., sling-loaded 21 vehicles from the Cape Island to landing craft, mechanized and landing craft, utility (LCM/LCU) of the 467th Transportation Company, Tacoma, and a logistic support vessel (LSV) of the 805th Transportation Company, Tacoma. This was done as a demonstration of operations that would be done at an unimproved port.
Landing Craft Mechanized of the Army Reserve 175th Transportation Company, during Operation Puget Thunder Most of the vehicles on the Cape Island rolled off it but those that were loaded onto the landing craft came ashore at the beach at Solo Point, Fort Lewis. Securing the port and escorting vessels through Puget Sound were the Navy Reserve's In-shore Boat Unit -12 and the Coast Guard's Port Security Unit 313, both of Tacoma.
Once all the troops and vehicles were on dry land again, they convoyed to North Fort Lewis at Sequalitchew Lake, moving across a floating ribbon bridge that had just been constructed by the 671st Engineer Company.
The next phase of the operation involved a 200-mile road march to Yakima Training Center in eastern Washington. Supported by the 593rd Corps Support Group at Fort Lewis, the 396th Combat Support Hospital, 357th Chemical Company and 671st Engineer Company carried out a field training exercise (FTX) there.
During the FTX, the 671st Engineer Company built a steel medium-girder bridge across a ravine. After the convoy negotiated the ravine, it came under chemical attack by soldiers from the 357th Chemical Company. Following the ambush, the convoy moved on to a decontamination site set up by the rest of the 357th and by the 396th Combat Support Hospital. Properly treating chemical casualties was a good workout for the 396th, a Tier-1 unit, which would be among the first-to-deploy in a contingency.
The chemical attack and decontamination operation were the wrap-up parts of Puget Thunder. The exercise concluded on March 11. Units began preparing for redeployment back to home station.
In all, 12 major missions had been performed during the exercise. These included constructing a floating bridge and a medium girder bridge, three bridge crossings (two at night), the loading of 148 pieces of equipment at the port, the processing of 675 soldiers and 252 pieces of equipment, three smoke missions and a major decontamination operation. There were no serious personnel injuries and Army Reserve vehicle drivers logged 51,000 accident-free miles.
The port operations phase of Puget Thunder ended March 5, when the 1395th cleared the terminal and handed the keys back over to Port of Tacoma officials.
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