Academy at Camp Shelby trains logistics Soldiers retrograde skills
April 16, 2012
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - The critical role of Redistribution Property Assistance Team (RPAT) skills to the timely execution of retrograde operations in last year's Operation New Dawn, coupled with the scarcity of the skill set across the Army brought a team of Soldiers from the 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, from Kuwait to Camp Shelby, Miss., last month to train deploying Soldiers in their area of expertise.
The 427th Brigade Support Battalion, 27th Brigade Combat Team of the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division mobilized to Camp Shelby without a clear mission set based upon the changing requirements in theater. With roughly one month left to go with their training, the unit was notified that they would be split up into small teams in order to support the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) CENTCOM Material Retrograde Element (CMRE) mission in Afghanistan.
The 177th Armor Brigade, the unit responsible for training the 427th BSB as part of a Brigade Combat Team, did not have the resident expertise needed to train the 427th BSB on the core function of the CMRE, which revolves around RPAT operations. Based on this training shortfall, the 402nd AFSB was tasked to provide a mobile training team (MTT) to take on the mission.
The 402nd AFSB in turn tasked the 541st CSSB to export their RPAT Academy to Camp Shelby on a short fused suspense to start training RPAT operations. Along with Soldiers from it subordinate unit, the 227th Quartermaster Company (227th QM), the 541st CSSB team arrived in Mississippi to set up and begin the program March 13.
"1st Theater Support Command, Third Army and ASG-Kuwait were very helpful with quickly approving the funding in order for us to accomplish this mission," said Capt. LaShell Davis, 227th QM commander.
"We received this mission on short notice, but due to the efforts of the whole Camp Arifjan team and the 402nd AFSB we were able to meet the training requirements. We went from no orders, no government travel cards and no idea as to how the mission was going to come together to 29 personnel at Camp Shelby, Miss., within seven days of notice. It took total teamwork to make this happen," she said.
The first task the 541st CSSB had to accomplish was how to condense the nine-day RPAT Academy course into five days to meet a tight training timeline. The solution was to extend the training day to a 12-hour format and to delete some classes that would not be applicable to the unit based upon how RPAT operations are being conducted in OEF.
This condensed training timeline ensured that Soldiers of the 427th BSB would be properly trained on RPAT operations before the start of their pre-deployment block leave on March 25.
The 541st CSSB launched a five member advance liaison (ADVON) to prepare training and support conditions for the main body, which would comprise two dozen Soldiers. The ADVON hit the ground running, coordinating classrooms, computers, containers, light sets, blocking and bracing material, and Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to ensure the students would experience quality learning environment and the culminating practical exercise would simulate the functions of an actual RPAT yard.
The ADVON pulled the diverse resources together in less than a week and assisted the arrival of the 24-member main body, including Soldiers from 227th Quartermaster Company who had honed their RPAT skills in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation New Dawn. The RPAT Academy was up and running, beginning the training of 209 Soldiers from the 427th BSB as directed on March 13.
The first two days of the RPAT Academy focused on training Soldiers on the roles and responsibilities of a Wholesale Responsible Officer (WRO) at the RPAT yard. Students were taught to understand the process of assuming accountability of equipment by identifying, verifying, correcting and signing and distributing all documents required to complete the WRO process. The next two days revolved around the roles and responsibilities for each function in an RPAT yard. They were instrumental in ensuring that Soldiers understood the process they would be required to demonstrate during the practical exercise at the finale of the RPAT training.
Key areas studied in these two days were Army Reset Management Tool (ARMT), Theater Property Equipment (TPE) Planner, Primary Hand Receipt Holder, Responsible Officer, transportation, customs, rolling stock (RS) and non-rolling stock (NRS). The consensus of Soldiers attending the academy was that the training was not specific to any particular Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). It was taught in such a manner that, regardless of MOS, any Soldier could learn the material and feel comfortable with performing RPAT duties.
Understanding the difference between the wholesale and retail sides of the accountability process posed the greatest hurdle for some students, but everyone came away with a good grasp of the process as a whole, said instructors from 227th QM.
"To understand the difference between the retail side and wholesale side, how it worked and the documentation involved with both processes," said 1st Lt. Elvin Santos.
"In my class it was hard for them to grasp the difference between the retail and wholesale equipment, and the different forms," said Staff Sgt. Gene Taylor.
"It's not easy for someone who has never worked supply to just start processing paperwork and understanding the different forms," said Sgt. Jenai Griffin. "The practical exercise gave them a better understanding of the whole operation and of the slides that the RPAT personnel used to brief them beforehand."
The practical exercise acted as a catalyst to merge the four days of classroom training into an event that reinforced the ultimate learning objectives for each class. The practical exercise employed real equipment and produced actual 1348s (DD Form 1348, Documentation for Turn In) to support numerous Master Event Sequence Lists (MESLs) during the practical exercise.
The 1348s contained numerous errors that students had to identify and correct. They also had to identify the missing paperwork with each individual packet before they could start the physical turn-in of their equipment. Once the paperwork was straightened out, the equipment was brought into the training RPAT yard where the Inventory Management Specialist validated the 1348 information was correct for the actual vehicle being turned in before accepting the piece of equipment. Only after that confirmation would the WRO sign off on the turn-in. The cadre of the RPAT Academy role-played customers during the turn-in process to add realistic stress to the transaction and to illustrate shortcuts that customers will try to take when turning in a piece of equipment.
Furthermore, the practical exercise focused training on loading procedures emphasizing the need for proper ground guides to ensure safety and efficiency.
Soldiers of the 427th BSB stated that the RPAT Academy was the best and most realistic training they received during the entire mobilization process, and the most pertinent to their actual wartime mission.
The end state of the RPAT Academy's nine days of instruction on ground was 209 Soldiers trained and certified as WROs with a clear understanding of the skill set they will need to execute their mission in support of retrograde operations once the hit the ground in OEF.
This will allow the 427th BSB to leverage their capability in support of the CMRE mission and to make a positive impact immediately once in country.
"I think they will be able to grasp their job a lot better because they will have the knowledge they need to take over the RPATs there," said Taylor.
"They have the basic knowledge to set up an RPAT yard, and I think it will depend on the mission, resources available and the RPAT yard configuration," said Santos.
Within a few weeks of the training the 427th Soldiers were already in theater, putting their new skills to use.
"The ironic part about this entire story is, once the 427th personnel arrived in Afghanistan, they were greeted by and received additional training from some 227th QM personnel that were sent to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom," said Davis, the 227th QM commander.
"According to the 227th QM personnel in Afghanistan, the 427th personnel . . . identified the patch with the training they received in Mississippi and spoke highly of the instructors and training they received from 227th QM at Camp Shelby."