Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
June 19, 2020
Army Major Pulls Back MOTSU's Curtain to Reveal MSC's Strategic Role
By LaShawn Sykes
NORFOLK, Va. (June 19, 2020) I am invisible to the naked eye, hidden by dense pine forest from my neighbors in Southport and Boiling Spring Lakes. Sprawled over 8,600 acres on the west side of the Cape Fear River, I am the largest military munitions terminal in the world, and the Army’s primary east coast deep-water port. I am where the mighty ships come to load and unload their explosive cargo and all other types of conventional arms, ammunition, and explosives. I am Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point.
Located in Sunny Point, N.C., MOTSU serves as a transfer point between rail, trucks, and ships for the export of ammunition, explosives, and military equipment for the Department of Defense (DoD). It is run by the Army’s 596th Transportation Brigade (TB) of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, which manages cargo movements on Military Sealift Command (MSC) employed vessels. SDDC is the Army Service Component Command to U.S. Transportation Command.
Seated in a dual-hatted position at Sunny Point, Anthony Armstrong said, “MOTSU plays a key role in the nation’s strategic defense, which is to serve as a capability to safely launch ships loaded with the military’s munitions to our Warfighters on the other side of the world.” For the Navy, he serves as MSC Atlantic’s Marine Transportation Specialist (MTS), responsible for coordinating with a network of stakeholders to move ships in and out of the terminal with minimal delays. For the Army, he is assigned to the 596th TB as a major in the US Army Reserve Individual Mobilization Augmentee program. In this role, he supports operations and performs staff functions.
As the face of MSC, Armstrong serves as an integrated team member on the Army port. Operationally, he ensures that ships are safely placed in the right position to receive cargo. This consists of coordinating numerous moving parts with no less than eight separate private and public organizations. His MTS position is critical to the success of all “ship-side” activities from securing armed escorts in the Cape Fear River to delivering mail. Strategically, he provides operational reports and ground-level insights to the chain of command for strategic national missions involving sealift transportation operations. In addition, he works closely with the Contracting Officer Representative for bringing ships on and taking ships off contract for MSC, along with monitoring quality control for MSC-employed vessels.
Even though MOTSU is hidden from its surrounding neighbors, it does have two massive-size cranes that are visible from almost anywhere along the waterway. Rare among ports, MOTSU can containerize breakbulk, converting truckloads of breakbulk ammo pallets into fully blocked and braced, seaworthy containers aboard MSC ships. “MOTSU would not be all that it is without the right equipment and the right group of professionals who are mission-oriented and capable of working in and across multi-organizational teams. The best part about the Army port is its people who selflessly come together daily to get the job done on time, every time. They truly epitomize MSC’s mantra, ‘United We Sail’,” Armstrong said.
MOTSU receives approximately 25 to 30 ships each year, 60 to 70 percent of which are MSC ships, Armstrong said. “In the past year, MSC ships transported 357,622 metric tons, which equals 14,305,871 cubic feet of throughput. In short, MSC’s annual total load is equivalent to the maximum weight capacity of more than 1,600 C-17s.”
When asked about his role at MOTSU, Armstrong replied, “I try to be a catalyst for action. There is no task that is too small or too big, whether it is shuffling paperwork or personally carrying boxes to meet a deadline, I am willing to do it; so that, others have what they need to fight the fight downrange.” Armstrong truly enjoys making things happen, especially, during challenging times like COVID-19, which has wreaked havoc in the United States for the past three months. While many Americans were sheltering in place, MOTSU remained open, enacting appropriate protection measures, using mission essential personnel for vessel operations and base security, and employing telework plans to keep service members, civilian employees and others safe during the pandemic. Among the mission essential personnel was Armstrong who donned his military uniform in order to help plan and execute cargo operations. As an Army officer, he said he is not new to crisis. Throughout his 20-year military career, he has practiced how to succeed when the uncertainty and unexpected hurdles of life occurs without notice. Because failure is not an option, he sees this virus as “just another challenge that we, the nation’s fighting forces and support teams, must face head on and work towards overcoming it like the professionals that we are.”
Armstrong admits that his faith does play a big part in helping him overcome COVID-19. Following the 9/11 attacks, he recalls, after hours of prayer and panic, experiencing a “deeply spiritual peace” concerning the possibility of going to war and never returning home. This peace, he said, has remained with him, keeping him calm and level-headed in the face of many stressful situations since. “As long as I heed the strict health precautions prescribed by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, I have faith that God will take care of the rest, providing me what I need through either physical protection or internal constitution.”
Although Armstrong has only been an MSC representative for 12 months, he sees immense value in his MTS position. “I joined Military Sealift Command in June 2019; and since that time, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to extend my skill sets and knowledge base while further developing, honing, and proving my effectiveness in coordinating numerous moving parts on the ground at MOTSU that directly contribute to the overall success of MSC’s strategic role for our nation.”
Armstrong, 38, was born in the Great State of Texas but was raised in Tulsa, Okla. Directly out of high school, he enlisted into the U.S. Army Reserves in 2000, working as a chaplain’s assistant until he was commissioned in 2005 as a transportation officer. To date, he has two deployments under his belt. He first deployed to Baghdad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008 and second to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. In 2006, he joined the DoD civilian workforce through the transportation internship at Fort Eustis, Va. Since then, he served with the SDDC from 2009 to 2017 in documentation, software management, and operations in Rotterdam, Holland; Fort Eustis, Va.; Scott Air Force Base, Ill.; and now he works for MSC at Sunny Point, N.C. This year, he joined the Civil Air Patrol as a public affairs officer. Armstrong holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, specializing in marketing and a master’s in Supply Chain Management. He is married with two children at home and one in college.