Story and photos by Donna Klapakis
599th Transportation Brigade Public Affairs
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — In 2015, the 599th Transportation Brigade assumed additional responsibilities while it adjusted to massive changeover in personnel at the headquarters.
The 599th employs military and civilian transportation experts to move all military surface cargo, deploying and distributing mission cargo and personal property throughout the Pacific and interisland.
“Numbers-wise we are a relatively small organization. However, our strategic value to movement operations across the Pacific is immeasurable,” said Col. James Smith, 599th commander.
From Jan. 1 to Dec. 10, the 599th exported 17,961 shipments, totaling 135,656 short tons, and it imported 47,388 shipments weighing in at 443,732.6 tons, according to Christopher Heiby, program manager for Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) Data Integration Branch.
In layman’s terms, as of Dec. 10, the brigade’s combined import and export cargo for the year added up to 1.16 billion pounds, which equals about 83 Aloha Stadiums, at 14 million pounds.
In May, the unit resumed responsibility for booking transportation, which it had given up about a year before. Its higher headquarters, SDDC, found more efficiencies were gained through decentralization.
“Decentralized booking allows us to provide a regular SDDC face to the greater defense transportation shipping community. It increases our responsiveness and level of customer service,” said Scott Matthews, 599th deputy director of operations.
June saw the brigade’s subordinate units working ammunition transport. The 837th Trans. Battalion at Busan, Republic of Korea, moved war reserve stock for allies from the Korean peninsula, while the 836th Trans. Bde., headquarted at Yokohama North Dock, Japan, handled ammunition moves supporting the Japan Self Defense Force.
The biggest single mission the 599th supported in 2015 was the April deployment and July redeployment of 3rd Bde. Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, from Hawaii to Joint Regional Training Center at Fort Polk, La. During this move, the 599th called on its subordinate battalion at Yokohama North Dock, Japan, to help work vessel operations, along with headquarters personnel and Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor, the 599th’s partner in Hawaii moves.
The brigade’s battalions and detachments regularly send deployment and distribution management teams (DDMTs) to Hawaii for major port operations.
During 2015, the 599th supported Pacific military exercises Key Resolve, Foal Eagle, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Balikatan, Cobra Gold, Valiant Shield, Garuda Shield, Keris Strike, Orient Shield, and Talisman Saber.
Pacific Pathways operations, which began in 2014, continued to be a major focus for the 599th throughout 2015.
“Pacific Pathways offered us an opportunity to exercise expeditionary DDMT capability, as well as coordinate and plan multiple missions and port operations,” Matthews said.
“Pathways has also forced us to do expeditionary stow planning and sync our efforts across brigades and battalions when a single vessel solution is used to support multiple exercises. We are still improving on that aspect,” he added.
Exercises Garuda Shield, Keris Strike, Orient Shield, Cobra Gold and Balikatan were Pacific Pathways exercises during 2015.
Smith took command of the brigade from Col. Shannon Cox in a ceremony July 23 on the Battleship Missouri Memorial, becoming the 14th commander of the unit since it moved to Hawaii in 1991.
“In 2015, the 599th headquarters’ staff had 10 major positions vacated and 10 filled,” said Cmdr. John Clark, 599th director of operations. “That is a big turnover, and a unit loses a lot of continuity when that happens.”
In October, the brigade hosted an SDDC inspection team for a week. The 599th did very well on its first command inspection since 2013.
In December, the 599th began an innovation with local partners.
“We are starting an informal value-stream analysis with FLC-Pearl Harbor,” said Clark. “We are joined at the hip for most movements into and out of Hawaii, and we want to optimize processes.”