Experts help pave way for a solid conclusion to Freedom Banner 14
GWANGYANG, Republic of Korea -- In 1979, U.S. military commanders were looking for a way to capitalize on the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps. They wanted a way to rapidly provide forward deployed Marines the equipment necessary to perform their duties across the globe at a moment’s notice. The answer came by way of a fleet of expeditionary ships loaded to the brim with military equipment staged throughout the world that would be part of a new program called the Maritime Prepositioning Force.
This program required a special team of subject matter experts who could properly maintain and account for the equipment once it was deployed – thus the Technical Assistance and Advisory Team was established.
This legacy continued as U.S. Marines and civilian contractors began executing the retrograde and redeployment phase of military equipment April 6-17 in preparation to back load the USNS Sacajawea and the USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo at the Gwangyang Port, Republic of Korea, during exercise Freedom Banner 14.
Throughout FB14, the TAAT played a key role by ensuring proper handling and care of equipment throughout ship-to-pier and pier-to-ship movements, according to Capt. David M. Beehler, the TAAT officer in charge with Marine Corps Logistics Command (Forward), Blount Island Command.
“Our mission is to maintain custody and accountability of the best war fighting equipment in the Marine Corps,” said Beehler, a Tucson, Ariz., native. “We came here early in the exercise to ensure the Howitzers, M1A1 Abrams tanks, Assault Amphibious Vehicles, and other expensive equipment was successfully offloaded and transferred from the vessels to amphibious assault exercise Ssang Yong 14. Now, as this equipment returns from the amphibious assault, we have to make sure any damages or missing parts are assessed and corrected before they can be loaded back onto the ship.”
The TAAT members’ expertise was demonstrated numerous times during the final inspection, according to Beehler.
“During Freedom Banner 14 alone, the TAAT has supported over 10,000 Marines and sailors of the Marine expeditionary forces and Marine Forces Pacific,” said Sgt. Julio G. Morales, a supply noncommissioned officer with the TAAT. “I can’t speak for all operations during the exercise, but the TAAT has been successful in our Freedom Banner 14 endeavors because we came and provided expert knowledge in supply, ordnance and communications, which has effectively moved this exercise forward.”
To facilitate the various shipping, maneuvering, and inspection processes of the equipment, the team brought in specialists.
“Blount Island Command brought critical advice and assistance founded in subject matter expertise across motor transport, embarkation, supply, ordnance, engineering, communications and electronics maintenance, to support the effective conduct of MPF operations during Freedom Banner 14,” said Beehler. “Every member on this team is a seasoned expert in their field, and can effectively advise the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and those Marines involved in the reconstitution and redeployment processes.”
During final equipment preparations, the team provided quality assurance and resolved issues that would have delayed the back loading process, according to Chief Warrant Officer Carlo F. Mendoza, a cyber-network engineer with the team.
“One issue that came up during the cleaning cycle dealt with properly cleaning the air filters on the M1A1 Abrams,” said Mendoza. “You can’t really see all the dirt they catch, so many Marines wonder how you know when it was actually clean. We brought in our TAAT expert and he explained that if the filter weighs over 28.5 pounds it still has dirt in it.”
The TAAT is part of a three prong inspection between the MAGTF responsible officer and Blount Island Command’s Marine Corps Maintenance Contractor ship supervisor, which gives final approval of a piece of equipment before it is allowed to be loaded onto a ship.
“You have the Marine Corps Maintenance Contractors and experts within the TAAT providing decades of experience to the MAGTF responsible officer who has the ability to coordinate maintenance and resupply requisitions,” said Mendoza, a Laredo, Texas, native. “Both elements are working together to pass the ship supervisor’s inspections, so it can be back loaded.”
As TAAT concluded its business during FB14, the team was already gearing up for the next regional exercise.
“Freedom Banner 14 isn’t the end for the TAAT,” said Morales, a Miami, Fla., native. “We go where the MPF action is, and as soon as the USNS Bobo leaves Gwangyang, TAATs are already transitioning to follow on missions in support of exercises Balikatan 14 and Native Fury 14, in the Philippines and Jordan (respectively).”
Freedom Banner 14 is part of Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise 2014, an umbrella exercise which began March 10 and extended through April 17. Freedom Banner 14 is a maritime prepositioning force ship offloading exercise that demonstrates offshore readiness of personnel and equipment to respond to a disaster relief or contingency scenario while strengthening ties between the ROK and U.S. forces.