'Wagonmasters' ending their longest year
October 16, 2007
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - In cavalry terms, they are almost close enough to let the horses smell the barns. For Fort Hood Soldiers from the 15th Sustainment Brigade, the 15 months of riding the trails, literally, of Iraq is at an end.
Having left Central Texas in August 2006, 'Wagonmaster' troops will be the first forces of the 1st Cavalry Division to return from what some have dubbed "the longest year".
As the largest brigade element in the Multi-National Division-Baghdad area, 15th SB provided support operations to 13 brigade combat teams and multiple corps level units totaling over 100,000 coalition forces.
"We're very proud of the fact that the biggest move of supplies in history was during WWII; known as the Red Ball Express," said Col. Aundre Piggee, commander, 15th SB. "We executed a Red Ball Express on a weekly basis; the number of supplies we pushed around Iraq."
The deployment marked numerous historical firsts for the 15th SB. Transformed under the Army's modularization plan just prior to deployment, the brigade assumed command of over 4,200 active duty, reserve and National Guard troops from the United States, Puerto Rico and Germany; spread over the southern two-thirds of Iraq.
Piggee is quick to point out, that of the additional 30,000+ Soldiers brought to Iraq since January 2007 as part of the surge, the majority of which the 15th SB supports, his brigade received no additional logistical troops.
"We've been able to provide that support without any degradation to combat forces," he said.
As the center of logistical gravity, 15th SB Soldiers measured mission success in numbers followed by lots of zeros. 'Wagonmaster' troops logged over 4.3 million miles over the most dangerous roads in the world. Heavy equipment transporters provided almost 17,000 concrete barriers to the 30 joint security stations and combat outposts in and around the Baghdad area. 15th SB tankers delivered enough fuel to turn the Houston Astrodome into a high octane aquarium; more than 190 million gallons.
"I don't think there is any other situation that can compare (to the 15th SB's) support situation," said Maj. Jeff Foster, support operations officer for the 15th SB. With MND-B being called the largest division size element ever assembled, he said, essentially, the brigade supports a traditional corps or larger element.
The key, Foster explained, was the 15th SB's distribution capabilities. By constantly pushing supplies to combat forces, brigade logistical planners could ensure units always had five to ten days on hand.
"We were able distribute supplies throughout the (area of operations) in a way that anticipated requirements versus reacting to them," he said.
That mindset transferred itself to other 15th SB operations. The brigade maintenance staff oversaw and coordinated the installation of over 10,000 vehicle up-armor enhancement kits to high mobility, multi-wheeled vehicles; saving countless lives from improvised explosive devices and insurgent attacks. Soldiers worked around the clock shifts adding re-enforced steel, ballistic glass and improved, motorized gun turrets for coalition combat troops.
"This was the first time that (15th SB) maintenance Soldiers got to step forward in a life saving way for the maneuver units," said Maj. Tom Cunningham, support operations maintenance officer for the 15th SB. "Vehicle armor enhancements, especially the latest improvements, became the modifications that allowed the brigade maintenance troops to step into their own."
Col. Piggee and the Soldiers of the 15th SB now hand the reigns over to the 1st Sustainment Brigade, out of Fort Riley, Kan. As they brush off Iraqi dust and dirt from the last 15 months, the mission now is to reunite with loved ones on Fort Hood's Coopers Field. When history looks back to this place and time, 'Wagonmaster' troops can confidently attest that they did 'Support the Action.'