Command change highlights Army’s relationship with Ports of Beaumont, Port Arthur
A neatly aligned formation of the 82nd Transportation Battalion met at the Beaumont Event Centre Thursday morning to conduct the official change of command for the logistics unit based out of the Port of Beaumont.
The ceremony also highlighted how the port has bound the goals of the community and the military together.
Army Lt. Col. Donald Santillo relinquished command of the battalion he has spent the last two years guiding through operations at four regional ports —including Beaumont and Port Arthur — to a new commander, Lt. Col. Gordon E Vincent.
“Throughout history, armies have celebrated the change of command through ceremony to not only honor the duty of their officer, but to also familiarize subordinates with the man that will be leading them,” Col. Frederick L. Crist said during the ceremony.
When Santillo took charge in 2017, he was also taking on a changing environment for military logistics.
During the start of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade prior, combat units were moved from bases or stations to the field where they were expected to meet with their equipment. The process could take about 80 days, according to Santillo, making it easy for the enemy to detect.
As commander of what was considered the most strategically important region for deployment, Santillo was called on to figure out a better way to “move at the speed of war.”
“We had to find a way to fight faster, and that meant moving a unit with their equipment,” Santillo said. “That also meant the time we had between arrivals and departures, trains getting in and ships leaving, was much tighter.”
As deadlines got tighter and 80-day maneuvers shrank to 40, Santillo said, the partnerships and communication officers had with port administration, the Coast Guard and even port labor had to grow tighter as well.
The maneuvers used at the Ports of Beaumont and Port Arthur to quickly get units into position across the world were reviewed and copied as standard protocols in other battalions.
Santillo said the region remains the most important port area in terms of logistics, with the Port of Beaumont receiving more tons of military cargo per year than any other U.S. port. Workload increased by 161 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to Crist, and the 82nd Battalion has already moved 15,000 pieces of equipment just in the first quarter of 2019.
The convenience and resources in Southeast Texas aren’t the only things Santillo said he will miss.
“I’ll really miss the people,” the officer said. “Working here is easier because of how supportive the community is to our military. A lot of other ports put an emphasis on commercial traffic, but we’ve always been given what we need from the ports and the people here.”
Before his two years in command of the 82nd division, Santillo was combat development staff officer at the Combined Armed Support Command and embedded with commands in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also served as an executive officer and logistician for 10th Special Troops Battalion, and 10th Sustainment Brigade Chief of Plans in Afghanistan.
He will be moving on to the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
As a part of the ceremony, the wives and children of both men were given tokens of the battalion’s esteem for supporting their loved ones. A special bouquet of yellow roses was also given to Vincent’s wife, Julie, to symbolize the battalion’s gratitude for her support of their new commander.
Vincent was most recently assigned with the U.S. Transportation Command in Belleville, Illinois, the unified command responsible for the country’s global defense transportation system.
Vincent said he plans to help strengthen the relationship between the region’s private and public partners and the battalion.
“It’s about furthering the development and partnerships we have with people across the Gulf Coast to show we want to be a part of their community,” Vincent said. “We’ll have to rely on the public’s understanding of what their commitment and relationship with us means to the nation.”