MSC Kicks Off Crisis Response Exercise

Wednesday, June 12, 2002
On May 13, 2002, the Navy's Military Sealift Command Europe began the ninth Unified Charger -- an exercise simulating the movement of heavy combat equipment and supplies at four commercial ports throughout Europe. MSC Europe personnel and 40 reservists from five stateside reserve units simulated moving military cargo by sea to meet a mass mobilization of armed forces to continental Europe. In the event of a major mobilization of U.S. military cargo overseas, 95 percent would be deployed by sea. At MSC Europe, naval reservists support sealift requirements throughout the year and are key players during wartime or other contingencies. When mobilized, reserve personnel quickly take charge of establishing and running MSC port offices anywhere in the theater to assist with sealift operations wherever needed. During this exercise, port offices were established at Rota, Spain; Bremerhaven, Germany; Augusta Bay, Italy; Livorno, Italy; and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Port offices coordinate a wide-variety of functions to support MSC ships, such as on-load and off-load operations, shore services, ship repairs and on-site personnel support.

At MSC Europe headquarters, Naples, Italy, reservists established a crisis action team, which served as the operations center, handling the increased communications and information exchange necessary to run multiple ports and manage increased cargo operations.

MSC worked with one of its partners under the U.S. Transportation Command, the U.S. Army's Military Traffic Management Command, to coordinate activities at the port. MSC moved cargo by sea, while MTMC loaded and unloaded the ships, and moved cargo to and from the port. Unified Charger provides reservists with valuable hands-on experience with dock and cargo operations at European commercial ports in various scenarios. Reservists spend two weeks learning the variety of challenges that would exist in a real-world situation. The exercise also includes the set-up and staffing of MSC's Mobile Sealift Operations Center -- a cargo container configured as an office with advanced communications capability, including global satellite communications. The MSOC is fully self-sustained, can be operational in just a few hours and can be deployed to ports where the infrastructure, such as local telephone lines and power, is not available. We've been answering every situation that they can throw at us," said Capt. Len Dato, USNR, commander of the crisis action team. "The ports receive the report of the situation to start with, and we track how they are doing and assist where it's necessary. If we get oil spills, or somebody breaks their wrist, or they have problems loading ammunition -- just about anything they can think of." "There is a learning curve," said Cmdr. Allie Milligan, USNR, port controller for Augusta Bay and Livorno. "The participants get much more proficient as the weeks go on." Unified Charger is a two-week exercise designed to prepare reservists for real-world scenarios and to enhance their knowledge of Military Sealift Command operations in Europe.

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