Colonial Capital is navy capital for expeditionary logistics

Colonial Capital is navy capital for expeditionary logistics

Daniel L. Freye

To most Americans, Williamsburg, Va., is known as the Colonial Capital. To the “Combat Stevedores” of the Navy, Williamsburg–or more precisely, the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Cheatham Annex–is known as the capital of Navy expeditionary logistics. Permanent home to the Commander, Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force; Navy Cargo Handling and Port Group; and Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB) 10, Cheatham Annex is also the “home away from home” for the other 11 NCHBs and two Supply Support Battalions (NSSBs).


The lessons learned from Operation Desert Shield/Storm identified a requirement for a single, multifunctional organization able to provide flexible, deployable transportation and supply support logistics services in any area of the world. Established in 1993, the Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force (NAVELSF) was built upon the solid foundation of the Navy Cargo Handling Force (NCHF). The NCHF originated in the 1970s with the establishment of six Reserve Navy Cargo Handling Battalions to support the Marine Corps Maritime Pre-positioning Force. The number of battalions grew to 12 in the 1980s. Today, the force consists of 12 NCHBs and two NSSBs. Capabilities run the gamut from warehouse and freight terminal management; fuel distribution; tent camp, maintenance and personnel support functions; mail distribution and barbershop, laundry and ship’s store to traditional shipboard cargo handling and expeditionary airhead operations. The NAVELSF mission is to provide transportation (cargo handling) and supply Advanced Base Functional Component support to Navy and Marine Corps operational units. NAVELSF is recognized by all major commanders-in-chief as the force of choice for transportation and supply professionals, trained and equipped to deploy anywhere in the world and provide effective shore-based logistical support to naval operating forces-“Anytime, Anywhere.”


The Commander of NAVELSF is RADM Robert R. Percy III, SC, USNR. NAVELSF has a nationwide footprint and is comprised almost entirely of drilling naval Reservists. The headquarters staff oversees 114 drilling elements located throughout the United States.

The 14 battalions and over 3,100 personnel that compose this multifaceted organization are expeditionary in nature–capable of deploying on short notice with limited support infrastructure to remote sites anywhere in the world. With over 90 percent of the U. S. Navy’s cargo handling expertise resident in the Reserves, NAVELSF is an indispensable component in the Navy’s worldwide logistical network. As a Selected Reservist, this is the place to be, we have a very real world mission and what we do on any given drill weekend matters. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 50 percent of the then Cargo Handling Force was mobilized. Today, two of our Air Cargo Companies are serving Commander Task Force -53 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and a detachment from NSSB-2 is en route to support Joint Task Force -160 in Guantanamo Bay.” The remaining cargo handling capacity lies with Naval Cargo Handling and Port Group (NAVCHAPGRU). In addition to its duties as the active cargo handling battalion, NAVCHAPGRU works closely with the COMNAVELSF staff providing training and operational readiness assessments for the battalions.

The NAVELSF staff is composed of 29 officers, Selected Reserve and TAR, and 28 enlisted personnel. The full-time support cadre numbers 22.

Daily operations are managed by Deputy Commander, CAPT Don Kline, SC, USNR (TAR). “The NAVELSF Staff, for all intents and purposes, is a type commander responsible for the training, equipping and operational employment of its units. It is a unique staff because it is a blend of talented Selected Reserve and TAR personnel who effectively work together as a team to ensure mobilization readiness,” according to Kline. The staff supports force readiness in the areas of training, funding, operational tasking, and facilities and equipment management. Staff plans officers ensure that NAVELSF units participate in fleet exercises and fleet and theater commanders are aware of and have access to the appropriate numbers and types of specialized NAVELSF components required to meet their needs. NAVELSF units are designated in all theater commanders’ war and operations plans and can be quickly called to active duty in response to contingencies. Legal and religious support is provided to NAVELSF units through the Staff Judge Advocate and the Staff Chaplain.

Cargo Handling Battalions and Supply Support Battalions are unique in that they are commissioned units–the only such Supply Corps commands in the Naval Reserve–entitling their commanding officers to wear the command ashore pin. Each battalion manages its own OPTAR, equipment and facilities, and has an active duty (TAR) Supply Corps officer assigned. From a career perspective, having served in these units always looks good on your military resume. According to CAPT Allan Turner, SC, USNR, COMNAVELSF Readiness Officer, “Selection Boards usually realize that serving in these units is a sizable commitment of time and talent. The absolute zenith of my time in this program was that I had the privilege to serve as the commanding officer of a Navy Cargo Handling Battalion. This is the only opportunity for a Reserve Supply Corps officer to serve as the commanding officer of a Commissioned Unit. While the responsibility is enormous, so are the rewards. You have a direct impact on the development of nearly 180 personnel assigned to your battalion as well as the visibility of a sizable contribution to the war-fighting capability of a theater commander.”


In peacetime, each NCHB is in a four-year training cycle. Year one is a Training Availability (TAV) period during which NAVCHAPGRU cargo handling courses are made exclusively available. This is also the year battalion members devote their attention to individual rate and leadership schools and training.

The Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA) is the focal point of year two. Building on the TAV year, the battalion demonstrates its ability to move cargo and manage a 96-hour, around-the-clock multiplatform, logistics problem under the scrutiny of NAVCHAPGRU assessors and NAVELSF staff observers. During years three and four, battalions participate in real-world operations and exercises, providing valuable contributory support. The NSSB training cycle is two years. Given the two and four-year training cycles, at any time half of the force, six NCHBs and one NSSB, are ready for mobilization.

For more information, contact the Deputy Commander, Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force, at (800) 453-1621 or consult our Web site at

CAPT Freye is also a former Commanding Officer of Naval Cargo Handling Battalion 10. In the civilian sector he is the Assistant Counsel and Ethics Counselor at the Defense Supply Center Richmond (DSCR-G).

Captain Daniel L. Freye, SC, USNR, Director of Operations, Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force

COPYRIGHT 2002 U.S. Department of the Navy, Supply Systems Command

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group