The responsibility for the movement and accountability of an Army brigade rotating through the National Training Center falls on the shoulders of the 171st Movement Control Company.
The 171st MCC serves under the 1916th Support Battalion, 916th Sustainment Brigade at the NTC. The company is partitioned into sections that oversee the movement of personnel and equipment through air, rail and road. Coordinating the movement of Soldiers arriving by airplane involves the Air Section located at Southern California Logistics Airbase in Victorville, Calif.
The non-commissioned officer in charge of the Air Section, Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Nicholson, explained that the accountability of personnel is a critical part of their job. Head counts are conducted before Soldiers board or disembark buses and airplanes. One unaccounted Soldier will delay the movement of a unit, because that person’s location must be determined first.
First Sgt. Paul Villa, first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1/66th Armor Battalion under 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, performed accountability of his Soldiers departing training rotation 13-02 from a manifest built at the NTC. He explained that after a manifest is created, Soldiers on that document remain in a secure area on Fort Irwin. His unit then boarded buses and traveled to SCLA for their flight.
At SCLA, Villa said that Soldiers with 171st MCC ensured an organized move to the flight line.
“[171st MCC] tells us when to go and they give us a brief of what to do and not do on the flight line,” Villa said. “On the flight line we file out and once again count. We’ll count again to make sure we have everybody. There’s a lot of counting.”
One NCO critical to the moving pieces on the flight line is Sgt. Andre Garson of the 171st MCC. The energetic and composed young NCO lined up several buses that pulled into the flight line at SCLA. He spoke to Villa and HHC’s commander, Capt. Peter Erickson, about procedures for boarding the airplane. Garson then checked with the Boeing 747’s flight crew about the plane’s cabin readiness. Once he got the go-ahead from the flight crew, it was time to board the jumbo jet, which can accommodate around 400.
Even with such a large and capable airplane, weight information is critical for the flight crew, said Staff Sgt. Darryl Hixon, a movement control NCO with 171st MCC. Weight totals are determined from baggage, personnel and carry-on bags. The rotational unit works directly with 171st MCC to provide the data.
The efficient and timely movement of rotational Soldiers also depends on a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination. The 171st MCC monitors chartered bus times, flight information, and personnel counts. The 171st personnel collaborates with the brigade’s movement control officer, representatives from the airlines, and the bus companies. All this leads to successfully moving the first and last Soldier, to and from the NTC – a big job, well done, for a small unit.