By Cynthia Bauer
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 30, 2007 - A commercial cargo ship carrying more than 100 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles for troops in Iraq set sail this week from Naval Weapons Station Charleston, S.C. The vehicles are designed to protect occupants against armor-piercing roadside bombs, knows as "explosively formed penetrators." The shipment marks the largest shipment at one time to date of these life-saving vehicles to America's warfighers in Iraq and the expansion of MRAP transportation to include both airlift and sealift, a major milestone for the program, officials said.
Army Lt. Col. John Hanson, chief of the U.S. Transportation Command's MRAP end-to-end distribution team, was at the Port of Charleston to observe the ship's loading. "By adding sealift, we can effectively use concurrent strategic airlift and sealift to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and meet that command's priority requirements," he said.
TRANSCOM is responsible for planning and synchronizing shipment of the vehicles. The increase in both production of the vehicles and the number of vehicles through the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center at Charleston have contributed to the need for the Defense Department to expand transportation, officials said.
Airlift has been responsible for moving the majority of MRAPs up to now. Hanson said the overall plan is to continue airlifting hundreds of the vehicles each month while increasing the number of MRAPs shipped by sea to ports in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
In general, it takes 22 to 30 days for a ship to reach its destination in the CENTCOM area. Sealift is an efficient form of transportation, and a ship has the capacity to carry more than a month's worth of the vehicles brought in by air, TRANSCOM officials said. The command makes efficient use of all modes of strategic transportation to meet warfighters' needs. Once the vehicles arrive in theater, CENTCOM theater distribution system will engage to move the vehicles to receiving units, TRANSCOM officials said.
In Charleston, the 841st Transportation Battalion of the Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command managed port operations for loading the MRAPs aboard ship, officials said.
(Cynthia Bauer is a media officer for U.S. Transportation Command.)