FORT IRWIN, Calif. - There are no "big box stores" in the desert. So what does a commander do when his unit is facing a show-stopping maintenance glitch' Who's a leader to call' Not Ghostbusters. They won't make house calls.

Enter the Soldiers and civilians from the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based 404th Army Field Support Brigade, who will answer the call ... and quickly.

The solution is the Brigade Logistics Support Team, which shares the motto of its parent organization - "Sustain to Win" - a mindset which was repeatedly demonstrated during their recent Mission Readiness Exercise at Fort Irwin's National Training Center.

The new commander of the 404th Army Field Support Brigade, Col. George G. Akin, got a look at the BLST concept in action at the NTC in May, when he spent time with Fort Lewis' own 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. The 3-2 was finishing up its pre-deployment certification training. Appropriately, in this case, the Stryker community is where the BLST concept began.

In closing comments at the logistics after-action review, Akin reinforced that BLSTs must engage their supported units and provide a single access point for acquisition, logistics, and technology support to the field commander.

"Integrating the Army Materiel Command's forward logistics capabilities to equip, sustain, and protect the Soldier, and to leverage national logistics to sustain the warfighter is what we have to be about," Akin said.

The concept of the BLST is to act as a force multiplier for our combat brigades mobilized in support of Overseas Contingency Operations. The idea is to leverage the work done by a relatively small group.

The BLST members are embedded with their supported unit and move with it under the over-watch of the 404th Army Field Support Brigade (Pacific).They operate from the same forward operating bases in the engaged combat unit's area of responsibility, providing technical expertise, assistance and training to Brigade Combat Teams.

With literally hundreds of years of combined technical expertise, the team provides the experience needed to adapt to situations that a combat environment produces. The teams are able to stay in contact with their supported units by reaching forward, while having the ability to reach back to AMC and other assets, to diagnose and overcome the stickiest of logistical issues.

According to Akin, "training is the key" along with successfully integrating AMC's forward logistics capabilities to equip, sustain, and protect the warfighter. And, the value of the BLST concept is regularly recognized by supported Soldiers, who use phrases like "combat multiplier" to describe their contact with their BLST. There is no doubt that a special bond of trust and confidence forms quickly between the warrior and the BLST.

BLST members are professional equipment specialists from major commands within AMC, known as Logistics Assistance Representatives or LARs. Many are former Soldiers who spent their military careers focused on supporting combat equipment from HMMWVs to helicopters.

The team of military and Department of the Army civilian LARs serve together, generally in austere conditions with the Soldiers they support at forward operating bases. It's actually a condition of employment for the civilian LARs. A visit to Forward Operating Base King at Fort Irwin offers a quick entrAfAe into the conditions under which everyone gets to eat a good measure of blowing dust on a daily basis.

LARs even promote their own sustainment urban legend which holds that a LAR has the innate natural ability to sense what critical subsystem will ultimately lead to failure of an entire system ... and when it will happen.

The legend also has it that they know all the parts manuals by rote and know where to go and who to contact to get a required part. To a casual onlooker, though, it's more like art and magic than legend.

They mentor and train young Soldiers to complete the repair mission on their own. Team members stand ready to listen to and provide our warriors the equipment and supplies necessary to meet the mission.

Combat units train as they will fight and as they move toward contact, engagement and ultimate defeat of an enemy, their own dedicated BLST will be with them, sustaining their warfighters until they win the day. Sustain to win!

Page last updated Tue June 30th, 2009 at 18:31