By Jeff CrawleyOctober 30, 2008
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - More than 200 Soldiers from the 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion from Fort Sam Houston and Fort Hood, Texas, worked together as a battalion during a field training exercise Oct. 20 through 28 at Camp Bullis.
The units included the 418th Medical Logistics Company, 591st MLC Rear Detachment, 440th Blood Support Det., 582nd MLC, and 583rd MLC with participation from the Texas National Guard.
"We're shooting, we're moving, we're communicating," said Capt. Francis Sullivan, company commander for the 418th. "We started out with live fire ranges - Soldiers in the back of vehicles being ambushed."
The FTX featured everything that would be performed in a medical logistics operation except a Combat Army Support Hospital, he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Davison, first sergeant for the 418th, said the Soldiers were performing their real-world missions. This included providing blood, training on blood storage equipment and shipping and receiving medical supplies, which are known as Class 8.
Near an airstrip, an area of operations was set up that could support up to 22,000 Soldiers, said 1st Lt. Darryl Hopkins, executive officer of the 418th. The site included a motor pool, medical maintenance facility, sleep and mess facilities, a customer service tent where Soldiers could pick up or drop off supplies, storage tent, an optical fabrication lab to make or repair eyeglasses, and an operations facility.
"We can store 51 short tons (2,000 pounds) of supplies and push 11.1 short tons of supplies a day," Hopkins said.
Lt. Col. Ron Krogh, battalion commander for the 61st MMB, said the FTX served several purposes.
The FTX was the mission readiness exercise for one of the battalion's companies, which will be deploying. It was also an opportunity to practice a long convoy from Fort Hood to Camp Bullis.
"In a military vehicle it's close to four hours, in a car you could do it in about two and a half," Krogh said.
The FTX was very realistic for a field setting though it does not replicate Iraq, where Soldiers would be working at forward operating bases and living in buildings, Krogh said.
Still, the Soldiers used the same type of equipment they will see when deployed and the security awareness at the FTX was the same as in Iraq, he said.
Throughout the FTX, scenarios were injected which tested the Soldiers' abilities, Sullivan said.
"We create an incident to make them do their jobs in the field," Sullivan, "and as commanders we evaluate them."
In the Optical Fabrication Shop, Sgt. Gwendolyn Elliott and Spc. Jonathan Miller, both of the 418th, made and repaired eyeglasses and fixed medical maintenance equipment.
There was not a lot of difference from working on eyeglasses in the field in an Expando Van than at a permanent facility, said Elliott, who is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Optical Fabrication Section.
"It's easy actually. We pretty much have the same equipment," she said. "It's a little older version, but they all work the same."
Capt. Rocky Torres, company commander of the 583rd, said the FTX was an opportunity for his Soldiers to get hands on training, particularly in new areas.
"They're doing great. They're hyped up about the training," Torres said.
Sullivan, who has 28 years in the Army and has served in Special Forces and medical groups, said the Soldiers are ready for deployment.
"I have never seen such a high state of readiness as this battalion," he said. "These guys are ready to go, they're highly trained."
(Jeff Crawley works in the Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs Office)