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NEWS | Jan. 19, 2011

Small unit makes huge impact

By Eric Sesit Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The 841st Transportation Battalion is a busy unit. Headquartered on Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station, they moved cargo on and off of 337 ships in 2010 alone. They are also tasked with coordinating military shipping for three other ports on the east coast - Philadelphia, P.A., Norfolk, Va. and Savannah, Ga. That is a lot of cargo for a small battalion, and at the head of this group of hard-chargers is recently promoted Army Col. Ines White.

Colonel White is quite good at moving things. With seven deployments under her belt - the first Gulf War, twice to the Balkans and four times to Iraq - she knows what it takes to move military equipment around the world.

"It takes a civilian force, many of whom have been here for more than 20 years, and a group of dedicated Soldiers and Sailors working together to move the quantities of material that we do," said Colonel White, immediately giving credit to her team. "Our job is logistics and our civilians have the corporate knowledge and the connections to make things happen."

The 841st Transportation Battalion has been in Charleston in one form or another since WWII when it was known as the Charleston Ordnance Depot and moved U.S. forces and cargo overseas. From 1952 until 1999, the battalion was known as the Charleston Transportation Corps Marine Depot and the primary mission was storing and maintaining Army watercraft and rail cars as well as being the Army's primary east coast petroleum storage facility. In1999, the unit was designated the 841st.

No matter their call sign, the 841st leads the way when it comes to moving equipment.

"We've shipped more than 10,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles and more than 5,000 MRAP All Terrain Vehicles," said Colonel White. "Although a large part of our job is making sure all the equipment arriving on base via train or truck makes it onto a ship going overseas, it's the logistics behind making everything work that is the challenge. And, these folks do it for three ports for material going overseas as well as returning."

When Colonel White took command of the 841st in July 2009, it was the culmination of a goal she had set for herself much earlier in her career. "I'm more proud of the fact that I'm commanding a battalion than I am of being the first female commander of the 841st. I knew early in my career that leading a battalion was what I wanted to do."

Born in Brussels, Belgium, Colonel White moved to South Dakota when she was 16.

"My mother had fallen in love with a Native American, Chief David Beautiful Bald Eagle, who adopted me and my sister," said Colonel White, without any trace of a foreign accent. "I finished high school on the reservation and then went to the University of South Dakota where I was so poor, I was trying to conserve toothpaste by using the least bit possible to brush my teeth. My brother, who was in the Army and stationed overseas happened to call and said, `do what you have to do. Go talk to the ROTC.' I did and I was able to complete my education."

After her initial tour in the Army, Colonel White sat down with her husband whom she had met in college, and evaluated where they were in life. They decided she would stay in the Army and they would re-evaluate their situation at six years. Six years became 10 years which has now turned into a career, a career balanced between the challenges of being a wife and mother of three children and the military.

"Everything I've done in my career has prepared me for where I am today, but without the wonderful folks in this unit, I'm just one person trying to move hundreds of MRAPs. It's a total team effort," said Colonel White.

"This battalion makes a huge impact in the local community," she concluded. "We might be tiny, but these folks have the biggest hearts. They sponsor families for Christmas, and take part in the community. This is their home and they make an impact. What they do matters."