MSC at the ready: Tuscan Trident
By Matthew Montgomery, Military Sealift Command Europe, Africa
Reserve personnel assigned to Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa (MSCEURAF) recently conducted the first Expeditionary Port Unit (EPU) table top exercise (TTX) in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations (AOO) by simulating a mobilization in support of port operations.
The exercise, named Tuscan Trident, brought together 30 reservists from EPUs 104, 105, 106, 107 and the Europe and Africa Headquarters unit. They participated in one week of MSC familiarization training, ship and port tours, operational exposure and area orientation. This was followed by a three-day simulation of real-world port operations that ended with a qualification board.
“What our EPU members accomplished here is no small task,” said Capt. Eric Conzen, MSCEURAF commodore. “Given the increased visibility of additional port options in the 6th Fleet AOO by senior leadership, this type of scenario is extremely relevant.”
EPUs are mobile units that can be deployed worldwide in response to events, such as a humanitarian crisis or other military mission. EPUs are typically deployed to help establish port operations where there is little or no port infrastructure in responding to an event.
“EPUs can deploy with a Mobile Sealift Operations Center (MSOC) van, which is a self-contained operations center equipped with computer work stations and a communications suite providing for both secure and unsecured communications,” said Cmdr. Ronald C. Riley, MSCEURAF HQ unit reservist and Tuscan Trident officer in charge. “This can facilitate port openings, port surveys, port operations and management, and also ship husbandry requirements.”
Ship husbandry encompasses all aspects of support to include logistics, services, maneuvering support, maintenance and personnel movements for a ship’s port visit.
“Making sure our ships can get into ports, receive food, fuel or other supplies, and perform maintenance operations is what enables the Navy to continue operating at sea during emergency operations,” said Fred Woody, MSCEURAF deputy operations officer. “This is what the EPUs do to enable continued support during increased operational times.”
During contingency operations, deployed EPUs also coordinate with other port stakeholders, such as Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) representatives, to facilitate port operations. They coordinate ship arrivals, on-and-off loading of cargo and departures of MSC vessels, all in support of missions within the deployed EPUs’ operating area.
“Tuscan Trident afforded participants the opportunity to simulate standing-up an MSOC van and establishing communications training to scenarios that they would likely face in a real-world mission,” said Riley. “Training improves the readiness and preparation of reservists to respond to real world scenarios if and when deployed in the event of a crisis event.”
In order to ensure a successful exercise experience, MSCEURAF Operations Support Officer, Kathleen DiPietropolo, coordinated with government agencies to formalize training. Theater indoctrination and MSC operations training was provided by members of MSCEURAF, SDDC 598th Transportation Brigade, Defense Logistics Agency and Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Experienced officers from the Surface Warfare and Strategic Sealift communities also provided instructor-led training to refresh fundamental EPU and MSC operations knowledge. This provided the knowledge needed to complete Job Qualification Boards at the end of the exercise.
“We used the first week of the exercise to make sure the reservists had a solid foundation and understanding of MSC,” said Woody. “We’re a big organization with a lot of moving parts. Understanding how the different pieces fit together enabled them to execute the table top portion of the exercise effectively.”
In addition to familiarization briefings, the group visited the port of Gaeta, Italy, where they were able to tour the Expeditionary Fast Transport Ship, USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7). They also visited the commercial port of Naples and received briefings from vessel repair contractors and a local ship’s agent.
“Being able to see the Carson City was extremely valuable for the group,” said Woody. “While the EPFs are very agile and useful ships, it’s important to understand what their limitations are for maneuvering and transiting. Being able to discuss the limitations of the ship, the general requirements for roll-on/roll-off cargos, and the interface requirements with shore personnel to support cargo operations was very beneficial.”
Following familiarizations and training briefings, the group relocated downtown for the TTX where they completed 124 training objectives and responded to 36 exercise injects simulating EPU port operations and service missions in the European Command AOR. The chosen location added realism to the exercise by forcing participants to deal with supply, connectivity and other issues.
The TTX culminated in a qualification board to certify reservists as Port Operations/Services Officers. A highlight was the successful completion by all participants, resulting in 100 percent qualification for the group.
“Completion of the Job Qualification Requirements, coupled with the training for subject matter experts, should prove beneficial to the Navy in plugging reservists into the on-going missions,” said Riley. “The reservists will already have a fundamental knowledge and be able to more quickly support real world missions.”
Tuscan Trident was modeled after MSC Central Command’s (MSCCENT) TTX, Crescent Dagger. Members from the EPUs supporting MSCCENT and Task Force 53 were able to share best practices with Tuscan Trident participants.
“The training by reservists who participated in Crescent Dagger and Tuscan Trident will establish a knowledge baseline for future attendees that can be shared and leveraged with other MSC area commands,” said Riley.
Increasing the baseline knowledge of EPU members will allow Tuscan Trident, and other EPU exercises, to evolve and become more complex over time.
“What these reservists went through is extremely important,” said Conzen. “As we continue to grow and make this exercise more dynamic, we’ll leverage our relationships to incorporate more personnel and assets. At the end of the day, we’re here to fight and win the nation’s wars, and our ships being able to use multiple ports is a big part of that process. If we can’t get food and gas, then the Navy can’t operate.”