'Muleskinners' take reigns of sustainment mission
November 10, 2011
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Hundreds of Soldiers gathered to witness a moment in history as one great organization transferred authority to another. Soldiers, ready to return home to their Families, joined their replacements for a final ceremony here before departing.
The 101st Sustainment Brigade "Lifeliners" from Fort Campbell, Ky., relinquished their authority over sustainment operations in Regional Command North, East and Capital to the 10th Sustainment Brigade "Muleskinners" from Fort Drum during ceremony here Nov. 1.
"(Soldiers of) 101st Sustainment Brigade, your mission is complete," said Brig. Gen. Les Carroll, commander of Joint Sustainment Command -- Afghanistan. "Well done."
Carroll welcomed the Muleskinners and then let them know it was their turn to step up to the plate.
"The mission is now yours," Carroll said.
In preparation for the deployment, Soldiers assigned to 10th Sustainment Brigade completed mission essential task training and field exercises designed to simulate the operational environment they would face in Afghanistan.
After arriving in theater, the Muleskinners took a few days to focus on learning from the challenges the Lifeliners encountered during their tour. Muleskinners watched and conducted tasks alongside their counterparts.
Soon they were performing every task themselves, with Lifeliners observing to ensure a smooth transition.
Col. Michael Peterman, 101st Sustainment Brigade commander, made it apparent that his logisticians cared about the Soldiers, civilians, and coalition partners in Afghanistan.
"We took care of teammates, not customers," Peterman said.
Sustainment brigades have a unique and challenging mission in Afghanistan. The terrain is harsh and mountainous, and the weather plays a role in how supplies are moved. Ground and air assets are on the move daily to ensure warriors on the battlefield have the necessary equipment to accomplish their mission.
Soldiers of 10th Sustainment Brigade are now responsible for managing everything from finance to the mortuary affairs team; transporting and tracking mail, equipment parts, food, fuel, personnel and ammunition in more than half of Afghanistan's area of operations.
Muleskinners can trace their heritage back to the alpine infantrymen and their pack mules that formed the mountain medical, quartermaster and ordnance maintenance battalions, which supported the 10th Infantry Division during World War II.
Since then, the brigade has conducted operations in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and numerous other places around the world.
The 10th Sustainment Brigade faces the challenge of supporting more than 10 brigades spread throughout the various regional commands. The job is nothing new, as the brigade has served in Afghanistan twice before.
Col. Kurt Ryan, 10th Sustainment Brigade commander, spoke to the troops and left no doubt in anybody's mind that the Muleskinner team is ready.
"Now is our time and we are prepared; we are the team," he said.