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The Army is in Charleston

By Lt. Col. Robert Dawson | 841st Transportation Battalion commander | July 20, 2011

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — Since taking Command of the 841st Transportation Battalion last month, I have to say that the reception by Joint Base Charleston personnel and the local community has been terrific. However, as I have made my way around town I have realized that many people still do not know the U. S. Army has an active presence in Charleston. 

Last week I was getting a haircut at the Exchange when the barber asked me if I was in town for my annual training. I told him that I was an active duty Army Solider, that I recently moved to town and that I would be working in the Army unit that has been in Charleston for more than 50 years. I was quite surprised when I learned that the barber did not know the unit existed even though he had lived in Charleston his entire life.

The 841st Transportation Battalion was originally known as the Charleston Ordnance Depot. During World War II, the Depot was temporarily designated as the Charleston Port of Embarkation and supported the movement of U.S. forces and cargo during the war. It was officially established July 1, 1952 as the Charleston Transportation Corps Marine Depot. From 1962 to 1981, the Depot's mission was the storage and maintenance of Army watercraft and rail cars and was the Army's primary East Coast petroleum storage facility. The Depot also deployed watercraft to support U.S. forces participating in Vietnam.

The Depot was re-designated as the 841st Transportation Battalion July 20, 1999. As a subordinate unit of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the battalion is a vital part of the Army Service Component Command of the U.S. Transportation Command. The 841st Transportation Battalion is designated as the Department of Defense's single port manager for military cargo shipments here in Charleston, Savannah, Ga., Wilmington and Morehead City, N.C., Norfolk, Va., Baltimore, Md., Philadelphia, Pa., and New York and New Jersey. The battalion's mission is to command and control the movement and distribution of military cargo and equipment via ship, train, convoy and truck on behalf of Military Surface Distribution Deployment Command through Atlantic Ocean ports to destinations around the world.

With a staff of just over 60 people, the battalion coordinates daily with deploying and redeploying units, the Military Sealift Command, the U.S. Coast Guard, local port authorities and local commercial labor and transportation firms to expedite the movement of military cargo.

Since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism, the 841st Transportation Battalion has loaded more than 1,300 vessels with more than 224,000 pieces of cargo in support of contingency operations to include more than 15,000 up-armored humvees and more than 10,000 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. This equates to approximately 35 percent of all combat equipment shipped to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recognized as the busiest military terminal battalion in the U.S. Army, the 841st Transportation Battalion is strategically located to serve major combat units including the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. and the II Marine Expeditionary Forces at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The battalion's facilities, located at JB CHS - Weapons Station, provide the only deep water port located on a military installation used exclusively on a daily basis to move DoD unit cargo. This makes our location the port of choice for power projection on the East Coast.

The 841st Transportation Battalion is a small Army unit that provides an invaluable service to our nation. I look forward to my time here in Charleston and working with the Joint Base and local community.

The next time you see a U.S. Army Soldier and ask him or her where they work, the answer might be right here in Charleston, on the South Annex at JB CHS - WS. The Army is in Charleston!