by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis
143d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
September 1, 2018
Boats or military vessels bringing mass amounts of personnel and equipment to a shoreline, like the mental images one gets when thinking D-Day, are usually linked to the Navy. Well, the United States Army also has watercraft and have been using them for years to train and sustain ongoing missions across the world.
One such mission was Nautical Horizon 2018 at Shuaiba Port, Kuwait during June 2018. While the strategic utilization of the Army vessels is not the same as those used by the Navy, the mission of those vessels remains as important- support the warfighter and sustain their needs.
“Nautical Horizon, specifically the LOTS (Logistics Over the Shore) portion brings a very influential spotlight to combat commanders, who in traditional aspects, don’t know the Army has watercraft,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, the Roll-on/Roll-off Discharge Facility platoon sergeant with the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), based out of Ft. Eustis, Va. “When higher echelons receive something like redeployment orders, they will not be restricted in their ability to just travel by land or air, they will also understand the Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed.”
Nautical Horizon started with the Brigade Inspection Reconnaissance exercise, which is the rapid deployment of soldiers from the states to theater, in this case Kuwait, and then getting their equipment issued via the Army Prepositioned Stocks warehouse, which would be the APS-5 warehouse for Kuwait.
“An APS draw is where they have all of our watercraft lined up, ready to go and we do what is called vessel inventories,” Conner said. “It’s like a change of command but it’s just for the vessel master and the signing authority to conduct a line item by line item inventory.”
Once the Army watercraft is signed over, the soldiers then test the vessels and ensure everything is in good working order before the mission can commence. This is the time any needed maintenance is conducted, and any deficiencies found are corrected. For this exercise, the goal was 96 hours from start to finish for this process.
June 24, 2018 - During Nautical Horizon 2018, several distinguished visitors from the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, Kuwait military and other Coalition Forces came out to get a first-hand look at the U.S. Army vessels participating in the Logistics-over-the Shore mission. The DVs got to tour the barge derrick crane and flew in a UH-60 over the Cape Ray with the Roll-on/Roll-off Discharge facility attached to it. Nautical Horizon 2018 is a two-stage U.S. Army Central (USARCENT)/Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) exercise that conducts an Army Watercraft Brigade Inspection Reconnaissance (BIREP) on Army Prepositioned Site (APS-5) vessels in conjunction with a Logistics-over-the-shore (LOTS) exercise. (U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis, 143d Sustainment Command - Expeditionary)
Throughout the BIREP, the commanders of the various units involved are collecting data on how quickly and successfully their soldiers can get through the deployment, Soldier Readiness and APS processes and what lessons learned can be carried forward for the next mission. This information is essential and used when USARCENT looks at employing their sustainment forces for future exercises.
“Also during Nautical Horizon, in conjunction to the BIREP, we are conducting a Logistics Over the Shore mission,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Downs, the Task Force commander for Nautical Horizon with the 38th Sustainment Brigade, based out of Kokomo, Ind. “We are taking equipment that is deploying back to home station, loading it onto an Army watercraft system out to sea and transferring it across the RRDF onto one of the Maritime Strategic Vessels, in this case, the Cape Ray.”
Downs continued by clarifying that a LOTS exercise in general is being able to take combat forces and bring them into a degraded port or potentially conducting a beach landing and projecting that force onto land in a very short amount of time. You can bring brigades and division level assets onto land within 24-48 hours with those Army systems rolling off the strategic vessels, fully combat ready, combat loaded and projecting that force into an adversary’s area.
Conner and the soldiers of the 7th TBX worked in conjunction with the members of the 38th SB to make all of this happen. They were able to build the RRDF platform with the barge derrick crane ahead of schedule, although some weather and rough waters did factor in when it came time to ‘stab’ the RRDF onto the MSV and move the vehicles from the Landing Ship Vessel and the Landing Craft Utility over the RRDF platform to the Cape Ray.
“It is a proof of principle that you have all three Army components represented in units that have never worked together, come together in a short amount of time and execute a fairly complex mission,” said Downs.
A successful mission like Nautical Horizon 2018 can highlight the ability of the Army’s watercraft and allow combat commanders to look at utilizing the vessels as part of their readiness and sustainment operations throughout the entire world.
“Our function is a theater opening asset,” said Conner. “We are like a D plus 10 asset and when somebody goes into theater in a situation like D-Day, we are the next ones right behind them to establish a supply chain. A lot of combat commanders don’t know that this asset is out there and without these operations, the only time we get used is when someone knows about us.”
Nautical Horizon 2018 is setting the stage for a Joint Logistics Over the Shore mission in the planning stages with multiple military components involved. The goal of these exercises is to continue to highlight the sustainment and readiness of today’s military, anytime, anywhere.