Changes keep annual exercise from becoming routine for 599th

The 599th Transportation Brigade team poses for a photo in the Combined Seaport Coordination Center at Pier 8 in Busan, South Korea during the Key Resolve exercise March 6.

The 599th Transportation Brigade team poses for a photo in the Combined Seaport Coordination Center at Pier 8 in Busan, South Korea during the Key Resolve exercise March 6.


By Donna Klapakis

599th Transportation Brigade

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii — Although Key Resolve is an annual exercise between the Republic of Korea and the United States, the changes 599th Transportation Brigade participants experience each year keep it from becoming routine.

This year’s iteration saw changes not only in the scenario and the timing of the brigade’s entry into the exercise, but also in the way that business was conducted in the unit.

Col. Sean Cannon and Col. Vanessa Williams, outgoing and incoming 599th Transportation Brigade deputy commanders for mobilization, pose for a photo with their Republic of Korea counterparts on the roof of the 837th Transportation Battalions headquarters building March 5 during Key Resolve.

Col. Sean Cannon and Col. Vanessa Williams, outgoing and incoming 599th Transportation Brigade deputy commanders for mobilization, pose for a photo with their Republic of Korea counterparts on the roof of the 837th Transportation Battalions headquarters building March 5 during Key Resolve.

During the exercise Feb. 24 to March 6, the 599th Trans. Bde. stood up the Combined Seaport Coordination Center at Pier 8 in Busan, South Korea, and the Joint Seaport Coordination Center at Yokohama North Dock, Japan.The brigade’s deputy commander for mobilization acts as the U.S. co-chair in the CSCC. Col. Sean Cannon, outgoing 599th deputy commander for mobilization, gave the 2014 Key Resolve high marks.

“The exercise was the best I have participated in so far,” Cannon said.  “The main factor was the improvement in the shipping data we were able to use. It made for a much more realistic exercise that allowed all participants to play an active role.”

During the exercise, Cannon was able to hand over the command of the CSCC to Col. Vanessa Williams, incoming 599th deputy commander for mobilization. This was the first year the 599th had an opportunity to include a handover between commanders. Both felt the inclusion of a transition was beneficial.

“This was an ideal opportunity to conduct a transition of authority.  I believe it was of benefit not only to Colonel Williams, but to the staff of the CSCC, as well,” said Cannon.

“The handoff went very well,” Williams said. “I was very pleased with Colonel Cannon; he explained my role very well. We worked for a week together and then he handed off to me the second week. [The 599th commander], Col. Shannon Cox also came with the big picture.”

Williams also mentioned the key part 599th Korea forward planner Samuel Pena played in the exercise. The forward planner must coordinate the 599th role with U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Pacific Command, and U.S. Forces Korea to make sure that the job gets done.

“Sam Pena will be the hub to take this exercise to another level,” Williams said. “I don’t think it would have been as explosive as it was without him. He was able to infuse a new vitality in dealing with a wide variety of scenarios.”

The 837th Transportation Battalion, which is stationed at Pier 8 in Busan, began participating in the exercises in 2012 and is now fully engaged. This adds a dimension that had been missing in earlier exercises. Because shipping in and out of the port is part of the battalion’s everyday mission, its members are subject matter experts on the port, working relationships, and contacts within South Korea. This year, because of budget constraints, the battalion also ran the show in the CSCC until the brigade staff could take over.

The relationship between the 599th Trans. Bde. staff and the Republic of Korea Port Operations Group also had a chance to grow during the exercises.

“Just in the brief two years I have been involved with the CSCC, I have witnessed a higher level of teamwork and a true sense of combined participation in the exercise,” Cannon said. “This time around, I witnessed U.S. and ROK members of the CSCC contributing as equal partners to successful mission accomplishment.”

Williams agreed.

“The ROK Port Operations Group is very knowledgeable, and we all worked as a team to share information. We had an open environment and were able to work side by side in the operations center. Additionally, we went and ate lunch together every day. Key Resolve is a vital exercise to strengthen the ROK and U.S. alliance,” she said.

Exercise personnel are also working with the brigade headquarters in Hawaii and the Joint Seaport Coordination Center in Japan. Lt. Col. Anthony Aquino was the 599th Trans. Bde. co-chair for the JSCC in Yokohama. He said he appreciated the close coordination between the JSCC and the CSCC during the exercise.

“The JSCC was originally modeled after the CSCC, in many ways, several years ago. Since then, it has evolved in both structure and process to support its unique mission set,” Aquino said. “Since both the JSCC and CSCC operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week, we are in constant contact at all times. If an hour goes by without the JSCC and CSCC either talking over the phone or meeting via video teleconference, it would be an anomaly.”

Key Resolve has had different names since it began in 1976. It was originally Team Spirit; then it transitioned to Reception Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration before becoming Key Resolve. It continues to develop to encompass shifting focus.

“The world is rapidly changing, and many second and third order effects need to be taken into consideration. We cannot say for certain how the exercise will evolve other than that it will continue to do so,” Aquino said.