Florida National Guard Soldiers prepare for Iraq deployment
November 27, 2009
CAMP BLANDING JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Fla. (Nov. 27, 2009) -- Although the upcoming deployment of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team will be a historic event, the preparation for the unit's mobilization has already gone down as the largest training event ever for the Florida Army National Guard.
According to logistical and operations specialists who helped manage the 53rd's recent training known as Operation Fall Classic at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, the scale of the training event throughout October and November was monumental.
More than 2,500 Soldiers from throughout the state cycled through Camp Blanding in preparation for service in Iraq and Kuwait early next year. The training included everything from infantry and convoy security tactics, to double-checking the Soldiers' medical readiness.
"This is the largest single training event we've ever done in the Florida National Guard," said Lt. Col. Daniel Hartman, chief of operations for Operation Fall Classic.
Hartman noted that many deploying brigades go to their mobilization stations with 50-75 percent of their training complete, but because of the comprehensiveness of the Fall Classic training the 53rd will "meet or exceed 90 percent of medical, personnel and training readiness."
He noted that even the preparation for Fall Classic itself was expansive and "it has taken all the resources of the state to help get them to that point over a span of eight months."
Those resources included everything from weapons and ammunition, to laundry, fuel, food, transportation and lodging.
Maj. Fred Thornton, maintenance officer for the Fall Classic Logistics task force, said that managing all the transportation needs for the brigade throughout the training at the 72,000-acre training site was itself an accomplishment he is proud of.
"I think this has been a very successful operation," Thornton said. "We've given them just what they need, as far as a logistical support element, to make sure that they get the best training that they can get here at Camp Blanding in order to be deployed overseas."
Deputy Director of Logistics Lt. Col. Richard Elam noted his team of specialists provided nearly three million rounds of ammunition, almost 200,000 meals, and "countless man hours" throughout the Fall Classic training cycle.
"It has been a humongous logistical undertaking, but we have met and exceeded all standards," Elam said.
Elam said flawless and comprehensive logistics are needed to support the training of any Soldier deploying overseas into potentially dangerous environments.
"The majority of our Soldiers who are doing the logistical support, to include myself, have been over in the theater of operations," he added. "Just having recently come back from there it is still fresh in my mind that we need to do everything we can to set these Soldiers (up) for success and provide them every bit of material and equipment that we can.
"I think that is in the forefront of everybody's minds," Elam added.
Now that the Fall Classic has ended, the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team will have a little more than a month before its mobilization to Ft. Hood, Texas; this presents the next logistics challenge for Florida Army National Guard planners.
"That will consist of moving in excess of 400 vehicles via commercial line-haul to Fort Hood," Elam said. "We'll have over 3,000 weapons that will be transported to Fort Hood (and) 7,000 pieces of optics equipment."
Logistics representatives will be stationed at each battalion to "make sure there is a smooth transition" for the Soldiers to federal active service, and a small element of specialists will work with the 53rd at Ft. Hood, and return with equipment like weapons and optics later in the spring.
According to Lt. Col. Elam this will also be one of the biggest equipment movements in the recent history of the Florida National Guard.