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Soldiers unload cargo of knowledge to local dockworkers

By Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

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Members assigned to the 597th Transportation Brigade partnered Port of Virginia personnel to conduct a cargo transportation exercise for the port’s civilian labor force at the Hampton Roads Portsmouth Marine Terminal in Portsmouth, Virginia, Aug. 31, 2019.

The 597th Trans. Bde. coordinated with U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 11th Transportation Battalion at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and the 841st Transportation Battalion at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, in a collaborative training effort that prepared more than 50 dockworkers for the exercise at one of the nation’s strategic ports. 

“Our safety department worked with the Army to develop a syllabus and a training platform that familiarized our labor force with how to operate military equipment,” said Bill Burket, Port of Virginia Emergency Operations maritime incident response team director. “We were able to train Virginia National Terminal employees on detailed operation procedures of military vehicles, trailers and various transportation equipment so we are able to support the Army’s mission to help deploy equipment.”

The first phase of training, conducted at Fort Story, Virginia, allowed the Soldiers to teach the PoV dockworkers, known as stevedores, proper equipment operation with a sharp focus on safety. 

“This was a combined effort to familiarize them with army equipment operation so that they are able to execute a proper download of a vessel while ensuring there are no injuries to personnel and limit damage to equipment and cargo,” said Greg Ferst, 597th Trans. Bde. safety and health manager.

Ferst explained that Phase Two was the exercise itself, in which the stevedores unloaded cargo from the Ocean Grand vessel at the Portsmouth terminal. The Army instructors from Phase One of training were present to provide operation oversight and guidance for the dockworkers. 

“This [exercise] provided lethality and readiness for the stevedore company which in turn increases the 597th [service deployment distribution command’s] response to using additional ports for operations,” Ferst continued. “We typically use ports in Wilmington, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina, but the Port of Virginia is a very strategic port and it allows the readiness of the brigade to increase their capabilities.”

In addition to a mutual increase in readiness for both organizations, Ferst described how the exercise strengthened community partnerships not only for Joint Base Langley-Eustis, but for the Hampton Roads military community as a whole. 

“We want to show our community that the Army is a very strong asset,” Ferst said. “And I think this will foster a good partnership with the community, whether it’s the Army, [the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Navy.]We are all one big force.


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