The BSA exercise allowed Soldiers and units to practice their skills and support systems by entering an area where nothing exists and establishing communications, field feeding, medical facilities and other supply assets.
"It's important because … this isn't something we've necessarily done as a brigade. That is, go to a site that is unimproved, where there is nothing there and actually set up the systems that we have. It shows Soldiers, and leaders in the brigade the magnitude of setting up something like this," said Ipan-Talalafofo, Guam native, Maj. Gina Sannicolas, a logistics officer and the support operations officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 115th "Muleskinner" Brigade Support Battalion of the Ironhorse Brigade.
Sannicolas explained that most leaders don't understand the magnitude and set-up of a BSA.
"It's not as easy as going into an area and setting up tents, there's a lot involved," Sannicolas said. "Setting up where your fuel point is going to be, where your helicopter landing zone is going to be. Things that normally, when you go into a (forward operating base), they tell you where your HLZ for cargo is, where your HLZ for medical evacuation is. So, it's practicing the skill sets that should come with the Soldiers and capabilities inherent of a brigade support battalion."
On top of setting up rear support and required capabilities, the brigade also established Field Train and Command Posts within the BSA, which push logistics packages to forward units thereby providing reach-back capabilities for required support and supplies.
The Muleskinner Battalion has a Forward Support Company attached to all forward units, which communicate through the FT/CPs headquartered at the Muleskinner Tactical Operations Center.
For instance, Sannicolas explained the FT/CP provided fuel for the 2nd "Stallion" Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment's gunnery during the BSA, cutting the distance in which the unit had to travel to refuel in half, thereby allowing 2-8 Cav. the ability of constant operations.
A fellow Muleskinner officer echoes Sannicolas' opinion on the importance of this type of training.
Maj. Lydia Thornton, a logistics officer and the executive officer for the Muleskinner Battalion said she thinks it's important all elements of the Ironhorse team integrate tactically and experience the capabilities of support the battalions can provide during training or combat.
During the exercise, Muleskinner's Headquarters and Headquarters Company provided basic life support such as church services, transient tent services and mock-enemy or opposition forces. Company A (transportation/distribution) conducted sling load training, B Co. (maintenance) conducted scheduled and unscheduled evacuation maintenance for their vehicles, C Co. (medical) provided Combat Life Saver implementation and casualty evacuation and the fuel trains were able to transport mail, ammo and food among other things.
Thornton also commented on her appreciation of conducting the BSA.
"I love the field because it brings the best out in individuals and the unit overall. I think that once Soldiers realize how difficult something is, and with their leadership and their training they can overcome it. Everyday got better and better … and it's validating for leaders at every level," Thornton said.
Based on her observation, Thornton said she thinks the BSA went well and said she would like for her unit to learn two things: Soldiers to have confidence in the ability of the systems they put in place and an increased competence in their individual basic level skills and collective battalion's as well.
In addition to Muleskinner Battalion, the 1st "Centurion" Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the Ironhorse Brigade, also participated in the BSA exercise and provided support assets.
The Centurion Battalion is equipped with unmanned aerial vehicles and military police which conduct security and detention services in the rear-support area. The Centurion Battalion also augments and provides additional capabilities to the brigade's intelligence section and serves as further support to the BSB if needed.