COMBAT OUTPOST HAIRATAN, Afghanistan - With 80,000 soldiers stationed throughout Afghanistan, there are units who’re in charge of tracking down millions of pounds of equipment that belong to these soldiers. Since 2005, the Army has been using radio-frequency identification tags to rapidly move cargo in and out of forward operating areas. As time and technology have progressed, portable deployment kits are being used to help transportation unit’s gain in- transit visibility of military supplies. For one unit, the task of tracking down all cargo processed through north Afghanistan has become one of its most important missions.
The 276th Transportation Detachment (Automated Cargo Documentation) utilizes an PDK system to track containers at northern Afghanistan port areas.
“The PDK is very useful because soldiers can scan for RFID tags within a 100 meter distance and can print new one on the spot if need be,” said Staff Sgt. Omar J. Rivera, a movement noncommissioned officer with the 276th ACDD,.
“Once the tags are scanned and loaded onto the network, customers are able to track their cargo online.”
Without the effort of the 276th ACDD, millions of dollars in military equipment could be easily lost because the unit uses the PDK to find cargo in all port areas.
“This mission is important because commanders can track their cargo whether it’s coming or going out of country, even if it’s mixed in with another unit’s cargo,” Rivera said. “Also, even if we don’t dismount on most missions we’re able to operate the PDK from the inside of a vehicle.”
Sgt. Robert A. Williams, an assistant convoy commander with the 276th ACDD, said the unit faces different challenges when it convoys to ports, forcing the soldiers to never become complacent.
“The port is very big so it’s important for us to come up with several different plans to provide better security for everyone,” Williams said. “A lot of the people in the unit have deployed before so it’s things like changing our routes and learning from trial and error that keep us safe in the area.”
Rivera said when there isn’t security issues, the weather can affect the success of the mission.
“When sandstorms happen, the combination of the sand and wind can block the scanners ability to pick up containers in the area,” Rivera said. “Other than the dealing with the weather, we would actually have a pretty simple mission.”
Overcoming security and issues may be daily obstacles, but one area that the 276th ACDD tries to excel at is strengthening the U.S. - Afghan relationship.
“When we interact with the port managers, we’ll ask what can we do to help make the area safer,” Rivera said. “For some of the soldiers, this is an opportunity to tell folks back home when they did foot patrols, they had chance to help and talk with Afghans.”
Williams said he feels the mission is important because it represents additional opportunities to help get troops home.
“Our mission is critical to the drawdown because we ‘re trying to show command teams that the northern distribution port works, which will give the Army more options to redeploy cargo back home,” Williams said. “Our goal is to continue tracking and moving cargo out of country for the warfighter, which is our part in the drawdown process.”