By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 21, 2009 - Military transportation experts used ships and planes to deploy an Army combat unit that arrived in Afghanistan last month, marking a notable milestone for U.S. Transportation Command. The 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Lewis, Wash., began departing from nearby Tacoma by ship in early May; the unit's equipment arrived in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province July 25, about five days earlier than requested by U.S. Central Command, Army Lt. Col. John Kaylor, a transportation expert assigned to Transcom's headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., said yesterday.
More than 3,800 troops and 900 pieces of the unit's equipment, including more than 300 Stryker armored combat vehicles, were deployed to Afghanistan during the movement, Kaylor said. This latest large-scale movement, he added, avoided millions of dollars in costs and improved Transcom's Joint Task Force Port Opening operations.
The movement to Afghanistan was the Stryker brigade's first combat deployment.
"It worked out great," Kaylor said of the unit's successful, nearly 7,000-mile deployment.
The deployment is part of U.S. plans to bulk up forces in Afghanistan to confront resurgent Taliban activity in the south of the country. The 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team officially took up its duties in southern Afghanistan on Aug. 9.
Most of the brigade's troops traveled to Afghanistan via commercial air carrier. The Strykers and other equipment, Kaylor said, were shipped from Tacoma to Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean. The two ships left Tacoma in early May and arrived at Diego Garcia in early June. The Strykers and other military equipment then were airlifted from Diego Garcia to Afghanistan.
The deployment used a combination of ships and planes, Kaylor said, because it was more cost-efficient and the timeframe allowed for it. In addition, the first operational deployment of Joint Task Force Port Opening airmen and soldiers expedited the move of the brigade's Strykers and cargo into Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is a landlocked country without a seaport, Kaylor explained. Though this precluded the exclusive use of ships to deliver the military equipment, he said, exclusive use of aircraft to move the unit would have incurred "massive costs."
In fact, using a combination of ships and planes resulted in a cost-avoidance to the U.S. government of $64 million, Kaylor said, noting that more cargo can be loaded aboard ships than planes.
U.S. C-17 Globemaster III transport jets and chartered Russian-made AN-124 cargo aircraft, Kaylor said, were employed during the equipment airlifts from Diego Garcia to Afghanistan.
"All around, it was an exceptional operation," Kaylor said.