The Military Traffic Management Command—the Army unit responsible
for surface transportation for all of the armed services—is
undergoing a major reorganization in order to streamline its far-flung
operations and speed up the delivery of supplies and equipment to
U.S. troops around the world.
The changes began before the September 11 terrorist attacks, but
those events “propelled us much faster than otherwise would
have been the case,” said Brig. Gen. Barbara Doornink, the
MTMC’s deputy commanding general. Doornink sat down with National
Defense in her new offices at Fort Eustis, Va., to explain the changes.
The MTMC, she noted, is the Army component of the U.S. Transportation
Command, which manages the worldwide movement of all Defense Department
cargo by air, land or sea. The MTMC is responsible for surface transportation
of those goods, from the U.S. point of origin to the ship and from
the oversea ports to the final destination, Doornink said. A total
of 92 percent of all military cargo moves by surface transportation,
During the first six months of fiscal year 2002, for example, the
MTMC moved 1.3 million tons of material in 42,000 containers, Doornink
said. Shipments to Afghanistan and the surrounding region have included
Air Force munitions, Hellfire missiles and humanitarian supplies.
The command even shipped water in plastic bottles by rail from Europe,
across Russia into Uzbekistan.
The MTMC also shipped cargo to the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, where alleged terrorists captured in Afghanistan are
being detained, Doornink explained. The first shipment included
a hospital and some buses to transport the detainees to Camp X-Ray.
As the war on terrorism spreads to other countries, such as the
Philippines, the former Soviet republic of Georgia and possibly
Iraq, the MTMC is likely to see a substantial increase in shipments
in the near future, well above the level of activity in 2001, according
to Doornink. In that year, she noted, the command transported 3.7
million tons of cargo, 26,000 passengers, 75,000 personal vehicles,
500,000 shipments of personal property and 95,300 containers.
The MTMC contracts with private industry to do the actual shipping.
In 2001, it awarded $876 million in shipping contracts to companies
in the transportation industry, including oceangoing, rail and trucking.
The command works with eight U.S. flag carriers to provide ocean-liner
services for U.S. military units in 130 countries. As part of the
war on terror, service was expanded to include Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
To reach that region, cargoes are shipped by sea to the port of
Bremerhaven, in Germany, then by rail to the destination.
The war—and the increasing activity associated with it—came
at an awkward time, when the MTMC was downsizing, Doornink said.
In 1999, as a result of Base Realignment and Closure Commission
decisions a few years earlier, the command closed port facilities
at the Oakland Army Base, in California, and the Military Ocean
Terminal at Bayonne, in New Jersey.
Many of the functions of those two ports were transferred to Fort
Eustis. MTMC units at Fort Eustis—the home of the Army’s
Transportation Corps—had been responsible for military shipments
within the United States and Puerto Rico.
In the summer of 2001, the Army announced what was called “a
sweeping reorganization” of the MTMC. The command’s
Operations Division and the Joint Traffic Management Office at MTMC
headquarters, in Alexandria, Va., were to be moved to Fort Eustis
and combined with the Deployment Support Command, creating a new
worldwide MTMC Operations Center.
Originally, the reorganization—which eventually will trim
250 personnel spaces, 9 percent of the MTMC’s 2,346 worldwide
force—was scheduled to take place in November of this year.
Accelerating the Pace
After 9/11, however, the pace of change was accelerated, Doornink
said. The Operations Center was established in November of 2001—a
year early—and Doornink was put in charge. From its base at
Fort Eustis, the center coordinates the work of four subordinate
The MTMC works with the Transportation Corps, Doornink said. Both
the Transportation School and the 7th Transportation Group are located
at Fort Eustis.
The command has personnel at 24 seaports throughout the world,
she said. They handle not only military equipment and supplies,
but also the personal effects that U.S. service personnel take with
them when stationed abroad.
Shipments move through strategic U.S. ports, such as Charleston,
S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Beaumont, Texas; the New
Jersey Port Authority; Tacoma, Wash., and San Diego, Doornink said.
They are received by MTMC units at ports across Europe, Southwest
Asia and the Pacific Rim.
To handle rapidly erupting contingencies in places where the MTMC
has no representatives—such as Afghanistan or the Balkans—the
command dispatches deployment-support teams, made up of active-duty
military, civilians and foreign national personnel.
These teams manage, document and synchronize the cargoes moving
through the ports where they are assigned. They are “probably
our most used assets,” Doornink said.
Increasingly, the teams “are going into places where we’ve
never been before,” she noted. “One team is going to
Peru next week. It is just now beginning to load.” Another
team is in the Philippines, helping prepare for an annual exercise
The teams run between three and 17 people, “depending upon
the amount of cargo,” Doornink said. “They don’t
necessarily wear uniforms, and they hire local employees who know
how to do business in that arena. That’s very important to
The center maintains three shifts of employees per day, with one
watch focused on the continental United States, one on Europe and
one on the Far East. “We have to be able to talk to our deployed
forces in real time,” Doornink said.
The command also is working to keep better track of its shipments
while in route, she said. With use of such technologies as radio-frequency
tags and bar coding, Doornink said, “we know an awful lot,
for example, about those containers headed toward Uzebekistan.”
Such tracking systems are helpful in countering pilferage, which
was “a big concern before 9/11,” according to Doornink.
Last summer, for example, six late-model BMW automobiles—property
of U.S. service personnel returning from Europe—disappeared
from the Port of Charleston. They were recovered within days. Police
arrested a suspect with the ignition keys for all six cars.
Since 9/11, Doornink said, the MTMC’s security focus has
shifted from fighting theft to countering terrorism. The command
is increasing its cooperation with other U.S. organizations, such
as the Coast Guard, the Customs Service and the new Transportation
Security Administration, to protect shipments at dockside.
The MTMC has taken new steps to protect the shipment of ammunition
within the United States, Doornink said. Up to 50,000 rounds, ranging
from small-arms munitions to missiles, are shipped every year, mostly
by commercial trucks, she said. Security for the trucks was regulated
by state, not federal, law.
After 9/11, military units took over the shipments, Doornink said.
Truck drivers were required to have secret clearances, and they
were taught to use M-16s, if needed.
Meanwhile, the MTMC is working to make its operations more efficient.
To make it easier to operate ports in locations with little or no
infrastructure, for example, the command is developing three mobile
port operations centers. Each of these centers will feature automated,
secure command, control, communications and information technology,
mounted in two humvees for quick deployment. The first of these
centers is scheduled to deploy this summer.
To simplify movement of material between trucks and aircraft, the
MTC worked with the Air Force to come up with an “intermodal
pallet,” which can travel both on C-130 air transports and
under Europe’s bridge suspension systems. Traditional pallets
used by MTMC were too thick, when stacked on high truck beds, to
fit within many European bridge structures. To get around that problem,
the intermodal versions are built thinner.
To improve its ability to meet the surge requirements of major
deployments, the command has turned over management of its railroad
cars to a private firm. In December, it signed a two-year, $1.9
million contract with IntelliTrans, of Atlanta, to oversee all car
movements, tracking, maintenance management, repairs and records
for the 2,200 railroad cars in the Defense Freight Railway Interchange
Included among the fleet are 556 heavy-duty flatcars, each capable
of carrying two 7-ton M-1 tanks. IntelliTrans also will track military
customers’ shipments aboard commercial railroad cars, making
it easier to integrate military and commercial rail cars during
The MTMC and its contractors will go to considerable lengths to
accommodate cargo. Last summer in New York City, regulations prevented
a Swedish-owned vessel—the MV Express—from using its
stern ramp to load 20 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters bound for Bosnia.
The ship’s operators solved the problem by using welding
torches to enlarge the vessel’s side hatch and using it to
stow the helicopters. Then, the hatch was repaired. When the ship
arrived in the Balkans, the MTMC was able to use to stern ramp to
discharge the Blackhawks.
The command also is using innovative methods to increase the amount
of cargo that ships can carry. Standard stow plans for the Navy’s
large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ships use 75 percent of the
In April, MTMC personnel in Charleston came up with a plan that
used 78 percent of the space aboard the USNS Dahl, which was bound
for the Indian Ocean. They loaded 1,740 individual pieces of equipment,
occupying 347,593 square feet in the Dahl’s cargo hold. It
is the largest amount of cargo ever loaded on such a ship, according
to the MTMC.
Ramping up to keep up with the post-9/11 surge in shipments has
been a strain on MTMC personnel, Doornink said. To augment them,
more than 600 Army reservists have been mobilized, she said. “We
may end up mobilizing one more round.”