United States Transportation Command

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A truth about modern militaries is that they always need people, equipment, and supplies moved from one place to another, which is the job of the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), which is one of the Unified Combatant Commands that is organized by function rather than geographic area. Depending on the nature of the item, how quickly it needs to arrive, the risks in the pickup and delivery sites, etc., transportation planners need to be able to select among military and commercial operators of aircraft, ships, trucks, and, in a few cases, horses and mules. The selection needs to be made with awareness of all military transportation requirements, not just those of one service or one regional command.

During an average week, USTRANSCOM conducts more than 1,900 air missions, with 25 ships underway and 10,000 ground shipments operating in 75 percent of the world's countries. As of October 2004, the command has moved more than 1.9 million passengers; 1,108,987 tons by air; 3.7 million tons by sea; and delivered more than 53.7 billion barrels of fuel by ship. Extensive use is made of standardized intermodal containers, which can move smoothly from long-distance transportation systems to tactical delivery systems such as the HEMTT] truck.

USTC has options that the other commands do not. If a Marine M1 Abrams tank has to move from Quantico, Virginia, to Baghdad, Iraq, if a central organization knows that a cargo ship in Norfolk, VA, chartered by the Air Force, is scheduled to go to Kuwait City, and it has room for the tank, USTC may send the tank to the ship, and arrange for it to be picked up by a commercial heavy equipment transport truck in Virginia, and have its ship met in Kuwait by an Army heavy equipment transporter, that is quite possible if someone has a global view. That global view has to consider both the long-range aspects of deploying long-distance transportation, but also the regional or local distribution that is needed to deliver the tank to Mosul, Iraq. In another situation, there might be a need for a shipment of electronic parts to get to Germany, but the unit that needs them is itself moving, so arrangements need to be made to take the cargo from the aircraft, put it in a warehouse, and then deliver it when the traveling unit arrives.

Transportation Assets

USTRANSCOM's personnel come from all the military services, Department of Defense civilians and commercial partners. Its assets are valued in excess of $52 billion, including:

  • 87 ships
  • 1,269 aircraft
  • 2,150 railcars and assorted equipment
  • $1.4 billion in infrastructure,

as well as contraact commercial partners to more than 1,001 aircraft and 360 vessels in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) and Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA), respectively. The command also manages the supply chain related Information Technology systems, and has the authority to establish a contracting activity for procurement of commercial transportation services.


USTRANSCOM's total wartime capability consists 51,853 active duty; 88,089 reserve and Guard, and 16,606 civilian personnel. Commercial partners provide 88 percent of continental U.S. land transport, 50 percent of global air movement, and 64 percent of global sealift.

Military Components

As a Unified Combatant Command, USTRANSCOM has three service components.

Air Mobility Command (AMC)

AMC provides strategic and tactical airlift, air refueling, and aeromedical evacuation services for deploying, sustaining and redeploying U.S. forces wherever they are needed. Many special duty and operational support aircraft are also assigned to AMC (including Air Force One).

In addition, AMC contracts with commercial air carriers through CRAF and other programs for movement of military passengers and cargo.

Military Sealift Command (MSC)

MSC provides sealift transportation services to deploy, sustain and redeploy U.S. forces around the globe.

Active sealift

MSC uses government-owned and chartered vessels for sealift, as well as dispatching less-than-shipload cargoes on commercial tesses. Sealift is the core method of moving heavy equipment from the U.S. to locations around the world.


MSC also operates a fleet of prepositioned ships, loaded with equipment and supplies to sustain Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Defense Logistics Agency operations.

Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC)

SDDC provides ocean terminal, commercial ocean liner service and traffic management services to deploy, sustain and redeploy U.S. forces on a global basis. The command is responsible for surface transportation and contracting with the commercial transportation carrier industry. It is the nation's largest customer of the moving industry. with more than 500,000 household goods moves a year.

SDDC also provides transportation for troops and materiel to ports of departure in the U.S. and overseas and manages 24 ports worldwide, including military terminals at Sunny Point, N.C., and Concord, Calif.