Supporting a Brigade Training for Combat Readiness
June 20, 2016 (FORT IRWIN, California) — The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division is relying on the 347th Regional Support Group for life support during their rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. Comprised of seven companies, this unit brings the mission command, transportation expertise, human resource capabilities, medical support and eager Soldiers needed to provide life support to a small city.
Divided into two rotations and a rail operations team, nearly 500 soldiers of the RSG are spending their annual training at the National Training Center, providing life support for the 1/34 ABCT.
“Even though this is not a typical mission for our subordinate units, our teams (consisting of personnel from different companies), really came together to make this relatively large operation flow smoothly,” said Maj. Ryan Koester, plans officer and rail officer-in-charge for the off-loading portion at Marine Corps Logistics Base, Yermo, Calif.
The primary unit tasked to offload equipment from 11 trains in Yermo was the 224th Transportation Company, headquartered in Austin, Minn. Marking the largest National Guard movement to the National Training Center, and the largest rotation in the last ten years to pass through Fort Irwin, Calif., these transportation Soldiers had their work cut out for them.
“This would have taken two to three companies out of the fight, or 154 soldiers away from their civilian job for five weeks if 1/34th ABCT would’ve had to do this on their own,” said Koester.
This approach; looking to a support group take care of the life support needs of a brigade combat team while they’re training at the NTC, is the first of its kind. The idea hatched as soon as leaders of the 1/34 ABCT knew they’d have a rotation at NTC. Providing soldiers for the rail operations and life support would not only detract from their primary purpose of certifying that their brigade is combat ready and prepared for world-wide deployment, it would also make the annual training period even longer for traditional National Guard Soldiers and a challenge for some civilian employers. Minnesota is one of 19 states that have a Regional Support Group assigned in their National Guard force, so it was an easy solution for Minnesota Guard units to help each other out and to maximize real-life training.
“My intent is to provide mission command of rail ops, white cell, mayor cell, and medical support while maximizing the utilization of RSG Soldiers in their military occupational specialty specific functions to ensure success for the 1/34th ABCT at the National Training Center, while meeting RSG personnel readiness, training readiness, annual proficiency training, and non-negotiable training requirements,” said Col. Lowell Kruse, the commander of the 347th RSG.
With two transportation companies in his arsenal – the 224th and the 114th Transportation Companies – the rail operations piece became the obvious task for their annual training to obtain real-life training for their soldiers. These companies tackled the rail loading at Camp Ripley, Minn., as well as the off-loading at Yermo.
To meet the needs of medial life support, Kruse looked to his 204th Area Support Medical Company, headquartered in Cottage Grove, Minn. He knew treating Soldiers coming out of “the box” for things like preventable injuries and heat exhaustion would provide great annual training for his medical staff.
To provide white cell and mayor’s cell support, he looked to his headquarters’ company, and his leadership team from Brooklyn Park, Minn. The white cell can be described as the epicenter of the operation; while the mayor’s cell runs the Rotational Unit Bivouac Area, just like a mayor and staff run a city – providing crews to keep the RUBA clean, and safe.
The white cell is a place where data is tracked and forecasts are generated daily to meet the needs of the Soldiers on the RUBA and out in the “the box.” This team of about 20 leaders ensures everyone has enough food, water, equipment, fuel, construction materials, ammunition, medical attention and has a safe environment. The white cell also provides spiritual opportunities, legal advice, emergency transportation to and from the airport, welcomes visiting military leadership and communicates the stories of the Soldiers back to their families and employers.
“The biggest success story was how well everyone interacted with each other across all of these functions and knew that even though working with the 1/34 ABCT was struggling at times, we always did whatever we could in order to make their mission successful,” said Maj. Joel Stamp, 347th RSG, logistics officer.
Two unique, and first-of-their-kind training opportunities became obvious as the mission drew nearer. One for the 147th Human Resources Company, headquartered in Arden Hills, Minn. and another for the 1904 Acquisition Team, headquartered at Camp Ripley.
When deployed, an HRC is responsible for conducting postal operations, casualty reporting and tracking accountability of all who enter the theatre of operations. With support from the 1/34 ABCT, the 147th HRC inserted a theatre gateway into the exercise allowing its company of administrative specialists the opportunity to use Army systems to track soldiers and distribute mail in an austere environment.
The Acquisitions Team was able to add value to the exercise by overseeing multiple government contracts while the 1/34 ABCT was in “the box,” ensuring proper contract fulfillment.
From start to finish the 347th RSG will have boots on the ground for more than 50 days. With the exception of the rail crews, most traditional Soldiers will serve their two-week annual training period in one of two main rotations on the RUBA. It was the first rotation’s job to get the RUBA prepared to house nearly 6,000 Soldiers before they entered “the box,” and it is the rotation’s job to welcome the 1/34 ABCT back to the RUBA and get them home at the conclusion of their training period.
The two rotation plan for RUBA workers allowed for a one day left seat/right seat for the 80 Soldiers swapping out. The frenzied day included communication on every level. From the lower enlisted Soldiers on the recycling and latrine cleaning details sharing tricks they’d learned in 14 days on the job – to leaders sharing how they solved complex problems and moved Soldiers in and out of “the box” for various necessities.
The 347th’s first rotation logged 170 transportation missions totaling 17,000 miles; processed more than 20 Red Cross messages from families back home; obtained nearly 300 tons of ice; delivered 40,000 gallons of gas; collected 66,000 pounds of garbage; delivered 300 pieces of mail and the mayor’s cell logged 6,000 man hours of life support and cleanup on the RUBA.
by Capt. Melanie Nelson
347th Regional Support Group Public Affairs