In late August 2002, a labor dispute shut down ports on the west coast of the United States for 2 weeks. Talks between longshoremen and shipping lines had ended when the union rejected the latest contract proposal. With no agreement in sight, supplies on military bases throughout the Pacific theater were dwindling and replenishment cargo was building up at west coast ports. A logistics crisis was developing. On 2 October, the Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) notified the 834th Transportation Battalion to prepare to load a ship at the Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO), California.
Since the 834th is staffed at reduced operating status levels, it could not take on a mission of this magnitude alone. MTMC called on the 1397th Transportation Terminal Brigade, an Army Reserve unit at Mare Island in Vallejo, California, to help in the emergency.
In response to the MTMC call, the Reserve unit's full-time staff immediately convened a port operation team. Seventeen members of the 1397th, who had been called the afternoon of 2 October, were on the ground conducting port operations the next morning.
Within a few days, more reservists volunteered to help. They already were trained and skilled at port operations jobs such as receiving and documenting cargo, supervising operations, and creating a vessel stow plan .
|Members of the 1397th Transportation Terminal Brigade review documents pertaining to military cargo containers destined for the Far East.|
Containers of various sizes started rolling in by truck and rail as soon as the reservists arrived at MOTCO. The containers continued to arrive around the clock for the next several days. The 1397th team, which had been divided into two shifts, was able to help the 834th receive and document the cargo day and night.
Reservists prepare documentation for more than 300 containers at Military Ocean Terminal Concord, California.
More than 800 containers had to be processed in and out of MOTCO. Typically, port operators are able to load as many as 600 containers onto a single containership. However, no containership was available because of the ongoing dispute between shipping lines and longshoremen, so MTMC asked the Military Sealift Command (MSC) to activate the MV Cape Henry. The Cape Henry's last seagoing mission had been in the summer of 1997. It then had become part of MSC's Ready Reserve Force, where it was maintained well enough to allow it to be sea-ready within a 72-hour activation period.
On 11 October, the Cape Henry sailed for the Far East with 188 high-priority containers. The dispute between the shipping lines and longshoremen had been put on hold on 9 October, when President George W. Bush asked the courts to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and order the longshoremen back to work. The remaining containers were moved back to the Bay Area ports for overseas shipment. Together, the 834th Transportation Battalion and the 1397th Transportation Terminal Brigade had averted a logistics crisis. ALOG
The Army Logistician staff thanks Major Michael O. Donnelly, Public Affairs Officer of the 1397th Transportation Terminal Brigade in Vallejo, California, for contributing the information and photos contained in this article.