Wilmington's port plays key role in Iraqi Freedom deployment

The scene at Wilmington's port looked the same as it did last summer. A giant military cargo was loaded with equipment and supplies headed for Iraq.

This time though, there was a crucial difference in how that equipment will be used.

Just as they did before the battle for Baghdad, cranes moved non-stop to get a ship loaded and on its way. This time, though, the cargo is intended not to wage war but to keep the peace.

This is part of the most massive re-deployment effort since World War II. And, Wilmington is playing a key role, as one of only fourteen strategic military ports in the country.

"We can turn a ship around in about 2 and half days where it may take other ports 5 days," said Tom Eagar, the Chief Operating Officer for the N.C. State Ports Authority. 

It is an enormous but often overlooked responsibility to get the equipment ready for troops overseas.

"Without our efforts, I think the whole operation can't be a success like it has been," said Lt. Col. Curt Matchett.

More than seven thousand pieces of equipment are being loaded onto the Cape Decision headed for the Persian Gulf. It takes the teamwork of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard to get this ship ready to sail.

"The language we speak is different for every service and every agency," said George Pearson with the US Military Sealift Command. "Yet there's one common language and one common goal here. Our only purpose here is to deploy this unit to wherever it needs to go."

The gear will be used by Camp Lejeune Marines.

The people doing the hard work here are proud of their roll helping American troops over there.

"I can sleep knowing that I was a vital part of loading the ship," Pearson said. " So any sailor, airman, or marine has to use this equipment when it gets there."