GWANGYANG, South Korea: Demonstrating the ability to rapidly equip forces for any crisis or conflict, the U.S. Army is off-loading and upgrading pre-positioned stocks from USNS Watson (T-AKR 310) at this commercial seaport on South Korea’s scenic southern coast.
Together with several military units and commercial organizations, the 403rd Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB) is conducting the operation at the port until mid-December when all of the equipment will be loaded back on the ship and taken back to sea.
“It’s a training event where we’re going to rehearse our download procedures and it also gives us the opportunity to perform maintenance on the equipment that is stored on the ship,” said Lt. Col. Doug Pietrowski, commander of Army Field Support Battalion-Northeast Asia. “This training opportunity will give us assurance that the equipment stored on the vessel is ready to perform its mission.”
Inside the port complex, Material Support Command-Korea is upgrading 113 tractors from the pre-positioned stocks on the Watson. To enable the upgrades, U.S. Army logisticians are orchestrating a heavy-metal symphony from their waterfront command center, methodically moving the large vehicles off the tightly-packed vessel.
Lt. Col. Kristian Rogers, commander of the Busan, South Korea-based 837th Transportation Battalion, said Gwangyang Port in South Jeolla Province was chosen because it was operational, logistically and economically the best location.
“Gwangyang and other Korean ports offer a great value in terms of the people, the quality of support and world-class facilities here,” said Rogers, adding that working with the different commands at the port is “a great opportunity to really partner and leverage the entire logistics community.”
Prepositioned stocks enable the U.S. Army to rapidly deploy equipment for full-spectrum operations anywhere in the world.
Named after Medal of Honor recipient Pvt. George Watson, the 62,000-ton vessel is one of seven Military Sealift Command cargo ships assigned to the U.S. Army pre-positioning program. With its six decks, USNS Watson has approximately 393,000-square-feet of cargo capacity, more than eight football fields worth of storage space.
According to 403rd ASFB Commander Col. Barry Diehl, the operation demonstrates the unmatched logistical flexibility the U.S. military brings to the Republic of Korea(ROK)-U.S. Alliance.
While it was scheduled months before North Korea’s unprovoked artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, several reporters at a media day at the port Dec. 3 asked Diehl about the timing of the operation.
Diehl said the only message that should be taken from the operation is that the U.S. military remains committed to the ROK-U.S. Alliance and is ready to deter or defeat any aggression against South Korea, as it has been for more than 60 years.
“We do this all the time,” said Diehl. “This is a great capability. We’ve got to maintain the readiness that’s here to support the Republic of Korea.”