News: Access control - the ins and outs of an Army mission control team
Story by Spc. Rachel Grothe
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Afghan supply trucks bring almost everything and anything, from gravel to food, to and from Kandahar Airfield, and it all goes through entry control point number five here.
Deployed here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the mission of the 558th Mission Control Team, 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, a U.S. Army Reserve detachment out of Tampa, Fla., is to operate the administrative end of one of the busiest entry control points here.
The 558th supports the process of admitting local national trucks arriving here through a process known as “in-gating.”
Before the local national truck driver gets admitted on to Kandahar Airfield by the 558th, individual units or companies here place orders for individual trucks to come onto Kandahar Airfield with a delivery or to take something, like base waste, away.
The trucks show up to Kandahar Airfield and get inspected by the Slovakians and search dogs. The drivers get inspected using retina scanners to make sure they are not on a wanted list. When they pass inspection, the trucks and drivers are passed to the 558th.
The process is simple, yet time consuming at times for the soldiers. The 558th soldiers help the drivers park their trucks. They are then escorted to the ECP5 movement office where their paperwork is processed and are given a gate pass and a truck tracking number.
“We in-gate them, process them and contact the customers [who] order them. So, it’s basically just tracking them,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Cutting, a Paxton, Mass., native and non-commissioned officer in charge of ECP 5, 558th Mission Control Team, 143rd Expeditionary Support Command.
Aside from working with local drivers, the unit also works with Slovakian military personnel to ensure the process flows smoothly.
“The Slovakians inspect the trucks for drugs, improvised explosive devices, new driver interviews, different stuff. They’re the first ones to inspect the trucks. Then they call and say we’ve got 15 to 20 trucks coming in. Then we take them and track them from there. They’re the force, and we’re tracking the trucks that they bring in,” said Cutting.
Every day presents a new challenge for the 558th, MCT from language barriers to the state of Afghan trucks.
“These trucks just show up in whatever condition.They’re Afghan trucks. They’re not U.S. Department of Transportation standard trucks. They make it happen, but we’re always dealing with trucks that arrive with unsatisfactory tires and not enough chains and straps to take cargo,” said the unit’s commander, Capt. Anthony Calingo.
The trucks come onto base, but because of military convoy schedules, they do not necessarily leave right away. The 558th has to keep track of the local national drivers during the time they are waiting here. When drivers get through inspection they are given a place to sleep, and a pass that tells force protection the driver has a mission on post so he is allowed to leave post, and enter again, said Cutting.
“Part of the challenge for us is driver accountability. When we let them leave for a gate pass we want to make sure the driver knows when he’s leaving on a mission, when he needs to be back here,” said Calingo.
They also have to make sure the drivers know when and where to be to catch a mission without giving away too much information. They must maintain operational security while making sure the optimal numbers of civilian trucks to convoy trucks are going out on missions.
“It’s always a challenge because sometimes you can tell the driver to be back on a certain date and they just don’t make it, maybe they show up a little bit late. Our key point with that is to make sure that we maximize the number of Afghan trucks that are on the military convoys, because if the drivers aren’t here to drive their trucks on the military convoys then that means we’re having soldiers escort, not the maximum number of trucks that they can, so it’s basically forcing us to have more convoys to get the trucks escorted and that’s something we want to minimize,” said Calingo.
The 558th MCT has spent their deployment improving the truck admission process.
“When we came in, we smoothed out the chaos after a couple of months. There are problems every day, but they’re things we can manage. It’s just a matter of all the customers we have. About 80 trucks a day, we’ll have a customer for all those trucks, and we have between 50 and 75 people who come in a day with questions,” said Cutting.
Many unit members have experience from past deployments with other military components. Their experience combined with the Army Reserve pre-deployment training has helped make their deployment a positive experience.
“Honestly, with this being my first deployment with the Reserves, I’m very impressed at the quality of work that my unit’s done. You put us next to another active duty unit, we’re as good or better and that really shows how effective the training that we did prior to the deployment was. Everyone is real dedicated to the mission. People want to be here. They want to do a good job. That’s a very good reflection of the Reserves, in my opinion,” Calingo said.