By CourtesyJune 19, 2013
RAPID CITY, S.D. (June 18, 2013) - The Golden Coyote Training Exercise prepares Florida's 50th RSG for a variety of missions.
The recent training exercise in the Black Hills of South Dakota could improve the Florida National Guard's ability to respond to hurricanes or even work with other units in a combat zone.
On June 14, the 50th Regional Support Group (RSG) wrapped up a two-week mission in western South Dakota, providing logistical oversight for units taking part in the annual Golden Coyote Training Exercise.
More than 80 soldiers from the 50th RSG took part in the exercise that tasked the Florida major command with directing logistics at six different forward operating bases (FOBs) spread out over 800 square miles. The personnel on those FOBs provided a variety of humanitarian and engineer missions - from immunizations for Native Americans to hauling timber within a national forest.
The breadth of the exercise and its logistical footprint were enormous; an estimated 3,500 personnel from several states, nations and branches of military service, participated in the event. According to 50th RSG Commander Col. Valeria Gonzalez-Kerr, the sheer size and intricacy of the operation replicated logistical demands her unit would face while supporting emergency operations in Florida or even federal deployments overseas.
"There are a lot of logistics that go with doing these types of missions, and that is what we do," she explained.
From its base of operations at the South Dakota National Guard's Camp Rapid, the 50th RSG directed the "life support" for every facet of the exercise, to include billeting, food, water, fuel, location coordination, showers, and ice.
"Everything is about logistics," Gonzalez-Kerr explained. "Yes, the engineers and the medical teams are going to provide support to the (reservations), but how are they going to live?"
Inside the 50th's command center at Camp Rapid, Master Sgt. Graciela Paula served as the senior human resource NCO for the operation. When tenant units reported in daily from the distant Golden Coyote FOBs, her team kept a running tally of personnel strength and locations; when they didn't call in, it was Paula's job to find out "Why not?"
She noted this was the largest logistical exercise in which she had helped control and maintaining accurate, and often changing, numbers of military personnel at several remote sites was both challenging and rewarding training.
If the numbers of personnel were sometimes daunting, the long distances between the FOBs mirrored a real-world deployment with locations sometimes hundreds of miles apart from each other.
At Ellsworth Air Force Base on the east side of Rapid City, members of the 50th RSG's 146th Expeditionary Signal Battalion (ESB) operated a satellite terminal in a remote section of the base, providing voice and data communications from their FOB back to the 50th headquarters.
"If you can't communicate, everything else seems to fall apart in terms of synchronization," said 146th ESB Commander Lt. Col. Roger Reynolds, whose soldiers made sure their communications link was strong and working.
He said this "constant communications" the 146th ESB were practicing in South Dakota would not only be invaluable during combat operations, but would be a critical part of any emergency response effort.
"We have the capability to provide 30 points of presence throughout the state of Florida should that need arise during a hurricane or (Defense Support of Civil Authorities) event," he explained about the 146th ESB's communications assets.
One of the less tangible aspects of the Golden Coyote training was the interaction the 50th RSG Soldiers had with personnel from different states and nations. At various points in the exercise a Florida Soldier could be seen working alongside a member of the Canadian military forces, the Danish Home Guard, or even the British military.
"Having the different coalitions and different countries here gives us real-time training on how you have to interact with others when you leave the United States," Lt. Col. Reynolds added.
At nearby Custer State Park, Master Sgt. Michael Reynolds walked side-by-side with Sgt. Jonathan Harper of Great Britain's 306th Hospital Support Regiment, examining groups of Soldiers preparing for Warrior Lanes Training in the rolling hills.
"The sheer size, and the numbers of people involved, is phenomenal," Harper observed. "It is all impressive."
Reynolds noted that while the Golden Coyote training was impressive, he was pleased with the interaction his soldiers had working with the foreign visitors.
"It is always good to have all of the different forces come together, because we have to do it when we deploy," he said "Some words may be a little different when we start talking, but we all understand each other and we all get along together."
Before leaving the Golden Coyote training exercise, the 50th RSG transferred authority for the logistics operations to the Kansas National Guard's 635th Regional Support Group.
The 2013 Golden Coyote Training Exercise was the 29th year for the event hosted by the South Dakota National Guard.