KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The Soldiers of U.S. Army Europe's 16th Sustainment Brigade completed their final pre-deployment preparations at the Deployment Processing Center and departed from Ramstein Air Base here for deployment in Iraq July 19.

The brigade will conduct sustainment operations there in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While at the DPC, the Soldiers from the 16th SB completed their final passenger manifests, listened to a threat briefing from their commander, and measured and weighed their baggage and equipment for the flight.

"It's going to be a near full flight, so if everyone brought their 400 pounds of authorized baggage and equipment, we're going to be close to being over the authorized cargo limit," said Capt. David Hudak, the deputy brigade operations officer. "That's why it's so important to check the baggage here at the DPC before heading over to the ramp at Ramstein."

Hudak said the entire process takes about six hours to complete. The first four hours are at the DPC on Rhine Ordnance Barracks here, and the final two hours are spent on the "purple ramp" at nearby Ramstein, waiting for the call forward.

"Some of the support the Soldiers receive at the DPC includes the use of recreational items like pool and ping-pong tables, foosball, board games and televisions with DVD players. The USO also sets up a table to serve snacks and beverages free of charge, and the DPC furnishes ready-made meals for the Soldiers to eat while they are waiting for the call forward," Hudak said.

Hudak noted that this is the first deployment for the brigade as a whole. The 16th SB activated in July 2007 as part of transformation in U.S. Army Europe. The 16th and the 7th Corps Support Groups combined and transformed into what is now the 16th SB. Oddly, the brigade inherited the unit insignia of the 16th CSG, but is now identified by the Unit Identification Code of the 7th CSG, Hudak said.

It took a lot of training to prepare the brigade for its first deployment. A Mission Rehearsal Exercise was conducted in February at Fort Knox, Ky., with what used to be the brigade's higher command headquarters -- the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. Other sustainment brigades belonging to the 3rd ESC also participated in the MRE. In January the 16th SB certified its 391st Combat Service Support Battalion for combat, and in April the brigade certified its 18th Combat Service Support Battalion.

"We've received a lot of new equipment since we (activated) last year," Hudak said. "These certifications provided good opportunities to test this equipment and use these new systems."

"I took part in convoy live-fire training and Humvee Egress Assistance Training as well as medical training within my section," said Pfc. Ben Malone, a combat medic in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th SB. "A lot of what we trained on wasn't what I expected, but with me being a new Soldier, I don't have much to gauge it on."

Malone said it was interesting for him to see all the components of the brigade working together during the certifications and exercises.

"You get used to working in your own little section, but witnessing the bigger picture with everyone working together was much more exciting," said Malone.