'Gold Miners' bolster brigade's prospects for AFRICOM success
February 23, 2013
By David Vergun
- Army.mil: North America News
- STAND-TO!: Regionally Aligned Forces
- 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
- STAND-TO!: U.S. Army Brigade Support to U.S. Africa Command
- Fort Irwin, Calif. & the National Training Center
- 11th ACR testing 'Dagger' Soldiers for AFRICOM missions
- African nations to welcome 'Dagger' Brigade Soldiers
- 'Dagger' brigade readies for AFRICOM missions
- Army News Service
FORT IRWIN, Calif. (Army News Service, Feb. 23, 2013) -- Gen. George S. Patton once said, "Gentlemen, the officer who doesn't know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless."
That quote illustrates the importance of sustainment for mission success, said Lt. Col. Michaele McCulley, commander of the "Gold Miner" team of the National Training Center's, or NTC, Operations Group.
Her team of 32 Soldiers are responsible for providing sustainment training, coaching and mentoring to "Dagger" Soldiers of 1st Infantry Division's, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, or ABCT, as well as other units that rotate through here.
The 2nd ABCT will become the first regionally aligned brigade to U.S. Africa Command in early May, following 14 days of training here, which end March 1, and follow-on region-specific training at the brigade's home station at Fort Riley, Kan.
Gold Miner Soldiers, all of whom have combat experience and are experts in their logistics specialties, move about "the box," as the 1,100-square-mile training area is called, providing guidance mostly to Soldiers of the brigade support battalion, or BSB, and the corps support sustainment battalion, or CSSB, she said.
Their occupational specialties include staff organization; distribution; warehouse operations; mortuary affairs; fuel, water, maintenance and recovery operations; medical operations, including treatment and evacuations; intelligence; communications; and ammunition resupply.
TRAINING TO DOCTRINE
"We providing training and mentorship using our own experiences, coupled with doctrine," McCulley said.
The doctrine piece comes from Training and Doctrine Command, which anticipates future threats and ways to meet them, using subject-matter experts, modeling, simulations and live experimentation.
"Doctrine is the basic recipe for how we do operations," she said. "You can add spice to it, but it's still the basic recipe."
In 1999 and 2000, McCulley was with the Gold Miners here when Cold War, force-on-force training was still conducted at NTC. Following the 9/11 attacks, counterinsurgency training was emphasized, she said. McCulley has first-hand experience with COIN, as it is termed, since her last tour before arriving here in 2011 was in Afghanistan.
Current doctrine anticipates a hybrid threat, she said. Now, the training is known as decisive action and consists of two main parts that, in reality, occur simultaneously, the conventional force-on-force and wide area security. The latter includes counterinsurgency, humanitarian crises, cultural awareness and diplomacy.
This is the fourth unit rotation through NTC that is using this doctrine, she added.
What makes this training unique, she said, is that most BSBs don't get the opportunity to set up their full complement of logistics scenarios at home-station training because the size of the training area at most installations is so much smaller and that limits full-brigade involvement, she said.
"When they come out here, we're able to help them develop ways to set up the entire BSA (brigade support area) that could be a 2- or 3-kilometer sized goose egg (shaped area)," she said. "They see the big picture here."
Soldiers are shown how to use the terrain to set up their equipment, for example, she said. There are some benefits to setting up the BSA where there's a lot of open terrain for good visibility and at other times, the BSA might be better off in a wadi or on a mountain.
It's all based on enemy threats and the brigade commander's intent, she said. "We help them to use all their intelligence and communication assets to set this up."
A wadi is a gully formed by a stream. At Fort Irwin and in other desert locations around the world, the wadis are normally dry, but can flood quickly when it rains.
"You wouldn't want to be in a wadi when that happens," she said.
Another unique training opportunity here is that the Soldiers gain an appreciation for traveling long distances and seeing just how long it takes to do a resupply mission, she said.
Since there is no dedicated security element for logistics operations, Soldiers must provide for their own security.
"We're all Soldiers first" and then logisticians," she said, adding that security challenges can be especially challenging with wide area security threats, coupled with conventional.
In humanitarian or refugee situation, Soldiers tasked with sustainment rely on government and non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross, United Nations, State Department or U.S. Agency for International Development for support, she said.
"Doctrine says we help locals tap into international or NGO-type organizations to help bring that level of assistance," she said, adding that "often, those organizations don't have their own distribution capability, so we would work with them jointly (so that relief) supplies could come to the BSB for distribution to local population.
Although NTC provides role players for these NGOs and governmental organizations, some of the participants are actually State Department personnel on training prior to foreign-service duty, she said.
EMPHASIS ON REPORTING
"We rely on Soldiers in all the units for accurate information reporting to anticipate their fuel, water, ammunition needs. There's only so much ammo in this training environment," she said. Coincidentally, as McCulley was explaining this she got a call in the box, where she was located, regarding a Class V resupply issue. Class V refers to all categories of ammunition.
"Units struggle with detailed reporting," she said after the call. "They say 'we need ammo' but they can't tell the BSB how much they need or how much they have on hand. They just want more ammo. They absolutely should know, just like you should know how much is in your checking account before you write a check. But they're learning.
"Also in the past, Soldiers relied more on contractors for many sustainment tasks, and here, Soldiers are having to do it all themselves," she added.
Soldiers are used to operating out of large forward operating bases, known as FOBs, that have plenty of stocks of supplies at hand, said Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Runnels, who has been with the Gold Miners for 18 months. He mentors the brigade command sergeants major in logistical matters and works with McCulley on personnel matters.
"Our first sergeants have been so engaged with the forward fighters, that they're not used to the basic responsibilities of beans and bullets being put back on their shoulders, ensuring all the sustainment functions are in place," he said.
"We had prepositioned stockpiles of supplies at the FOBs so they thought it doesn't matter if my report for fuel was wrong. I'm still going to get plenty of fuel. It doesn't matter if I request enough Class V because there's plenty at the FOB. If you don't submit the proper requests, it doesn't show up. And if it doesn't show up, you won't get it," he said.
Maneuver Soldiers who come to these rotations learn that if they don't get logistics right, the operation is not going to work, Runnels said. And, from the logistical side of the house, they gain a better appreciation for the decisive action environment, the magnitude of tactical responsibilities that have to be coherently built into the plan.
He said it's a real wake-up call for Soldiers who are used to having air superiority and rule the night with their night-vision goggles.
"Now, the enemy has every capability you have, so how do you defend against that?" he asked rhetorically.
"You spread your fuelers, equipment and personnel across the BSA. You use biometrics at our (equipment collection points) because we might be engaged with local civilians. You emplace hasty fighting positions, we haven't done that in years," he said, citing some force protection measures Soldiers learn to take here.
Biometrics are ways to measure physical and behavioral characteristics used to establish personal identity to prevent sabotage, terrorism and espionage. Techniques could include fingerprinting, iris scans and so on.
"How to manage your people is challenging for all rotations," he said. "All it takes is one or two individuals not completing their tasks or doing so incorrectly and it could affect the success of the entire organization."
(Editor's note: This is the final article in a four-part series on "Dagger" Brigade Soldiers training at NTC for regional alignment to U.S. Africa Command).