Army civilian delivers cargo across sea, keeps Lajes in the fight

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Angelique N. Smythe
  • 65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command 838th Transportation Battalion Azores Detachment manages movement of Department of Defense-sponsored surface cargo through the commercial port of Praia da Vitoria, Azores, to support the 65th Air Base Wing and other Lajes Field tenant units.

The SDDC Azores Detachment accepts vessels from the U.S. as well as Europe as they deliver household goods and privately owned vehicles to Lajes members.

Matthew Burr, a retired officer and U.S. Army civilian, is the Azores Detachment director. He is responsible for all of Lajes' cargo coming and going by sea.

"We sustain the 65th ABW to stay in the fight," said Burr. "We take care of port operations. We receive Airmen's POVs and household goods, as well as AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) and Commissary shipments."

When the household goods arrive, Burr and his staff fill or empty each shipping container. The 65th Logistics Readiness Squadron's Traffic Management Office and local moving companies coordinate delivery of shipments to Airmen, or to be shipped off island to their next duty station.

SDDC also runs the POV Processing Center. Airmen can both pick up and ship their personal vehicles from the POV Processing Center.

"Airmen drop off their vehicles to us, we inspect it, make sure it meets the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) customs inspections requirements, and then place them in shipment containers," said Burr. "Once the CONUS vessel comes, we take all the containers to the commercial port to have them shipped off."

During fiscal year 2012, SDDC imported 20,373 tons of cargo, and warehouse personnel delivered 258 POVs and 884 household goods crates to customers.

Within the same fiscal year, 7,770 tons of cargo were exported, and SDDC personnel packed and shipped 234 POVs and 966 crates of household goods.

Each year, there are 14 inbound and outbound CONUS vessels and 104 European inbounds that sustain Lajes' missions. CONUS vessels arrive to the island every 25 days, and European ships visit twice a week.

Burr, a retired U.S. Army major, said he enjoys working for the U.S. Army as a civilian and serving the Lajes Airmen.

"Working for the Army is just like it's always been, but I've learned a lot about the Air Force that I never knew before," he said. "It's fun working with another service. Also, moving overseas and coming here was a great opportunity to see a place I hadn't yet been to."

Burr served 20 years on active duty - four as an enlisted servicemember and 16 as a transportation officer. This is his first year serving as a U.S. Army civilian. Prior to his current position, he was a Reserved Officer Training Corps instructor at Purdue University.