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400 Navy Reservists Train for Customs Inspection Mission

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080306-21
Release Date: 3/6/2008 4:14:00 PM

By Lt. Penny Cockerell, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Public Affairs

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (NNS) -- About 400 Navy reservists mobilized by the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) are now undergoing six weeks of intensive training in preparation for a customs inspection mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

The reservists will deploy for eight months to various locations in Iraq and Kuwait.

Customs inspectors are the first line of defense against the introduction of foreign plant and animal pests and diseases to the U.S. and help prevent contraband from entering this country.

These Sailors have been drawn from 107 Navy Operational Support Centers across the United States, representing 43 states, Puerto Rico and Guam.

They will primarily serve as Department of Defense customs inspectors. A smaller number of the deployed reservists will handle administrative and headquarters duties.

As members of the mobilized detachment, known as "NAVELSG Forward Hotel," they will execute a two-fold mission: Ensure returning military equipment conforms to U.S. Department of Agriculture standards; and ensure all gear returning with personnel serving abroad in support of OIF, complies with U.S. Customs regulations.

The detachment is organized into three companies ranging from 20 to 120 personnel. A second wave of reservists mobilized for NAVELSG Forward Hotel will begin reporting to Navy Weapons Station Yorktown-Cheatham Annex in early April for the same intensive training.

Capt. Kenda James of Willsboro, N.Y., will serve as the NAVELSG Forward Hotel's group commander. Cmdr. James Beardsley of Buffalo, N.Y., will serve as officer-in-charge of operations and Cmdr. Bill Neelans of Victorville, Calif., will serve as officer in charge of services (administration). Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Jeffrey Reed of Davenport, Iowa, will serve as the command master chief.

The customs detachment will work directly for the Army to provide this combat service support mission.

"This battalion consists of citizen Sailors from all backgrounds and skill sets. It's impressive to see them come together and form a single, cohesive team ready and motivated for action," Beardsley said.

Though involuntarily recalled to active duty, 100 percent of the reservists deployed chose to volunteer for this mission. Many of these Sailors have served two or more deployments, including with prior Navy customs missions.

The reservists represent dozens of Navy job specialties, from masters-at-arms to hospital corpsmen to explosive ordnance specialists and hull maintenance technicians.

As civilians, more than a dozen serve as police officers and deputy sheriffs in their communities. Other professions include school teachers, postal clerks, safety inspection agents, criminal investigators, engineers, a carpenter and a nurse practitioner.

Sailors reported to their local Reserve centers in mid-February and traveled to the Navy Mobilization Processing Site in Norfolk for mobilization briefings and medical screenings.

Each reservist has orders for one year, with the possibility of an extension for an additional year. Expected duration of deployment is eight months.

These Sailors will relieve Navy Customs Battalion Tango, whose members were mobilized in August 2007 to train for the mission.

The customs inspections training, which takes place at NAVELSG facilities at Cheatham Annex in Williamsburg, Va. and at Army training sites in nearby Fort Eustis, includes weapons; chemical, biological and radiological defense; revised combat skills; self and perimeter defense; vehicle operation; combat life saving and first aid; and customs and agriculture inspection.

"When it comes to training, our Sailors strive to raise the bar with each rotation," Beardsley said. "We have to always be better and the training won't stop even when these Sailors are deployed. We are committed to excellence."

NAVELSG is a component of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). NECC a global force provider of adaptive force packages of expeditionary capabilities to joint warfighting commanders. NECC serves as a single functional command to centrally manage the current and future readiness, resources, manning, training, and equipping of the Navy Expeditionary Force.

For more news from Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group, visit www.navy.mil/local/nelsf/.



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