By Lisa SimunaciApril 15, 2016
SOUTHPORT, N.C. - As Nebraska Army National Guard troops prepared for a 1,200-mile journey in long-haul trucks, their convoy commander sensed their enthusiasm - and matched it.
"I'm a die-hard road tripper," Sgt. 1st Class Adam Borer of the 1057th Transportation Company said after cautioning Soldiers that speed and overconfidence would pose the biggest safety risks during their upcoming excursion.
"They're very excited," Borer said, as Soldiers made last-minute preparations on the 45-vehicle line up that would travel from the North Carolina coast to eastern Oklahoma. "They're doing a real-world mission and doing what they are trained to do. They know they are making a difference."
Over the course of Operation Patriot Bandoleer in April, National Guard Soldiers from five states will travel more than one million miles to haul munitions and equipment.
AMC's Army Sustainment Command ships items from Army Prepositioned Stocks located around the world to Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point in North Carolina. From there, they are delivered to sites as far away as Utah. Once the items reach their destination, they will be stored or destroyed in accordance with Army guidelines.
Now in its second year, Operation Patriot Bandoleer not only provides real-world training opportunities for Reserve Component Soldiers, it also supports the Army's Total Force Policy, said Maj. Gen. Elizabeth Austin, the Army Materiel Command's assistant deputy commanding general - Army National Guard.
"Army National Guard and the Army Reserve are enhancing readiness at the Army Materiel Command," Austin said. With 10 major subordinate commands, a variety of missions lend themselves to Reserve Component training.
A newly established Reserve Component Mission Support Office at AMC is charged with identifying and expanding these types of opportunities. "We're working to prioritize and coordinate with the National Guard and Army Reserve to facilitate mutually beneficial operations," Austin said.
Besides supporting the command, real-world training enriches the experience for citizen Soldiers.
"We're paying Soldiers two weeks a year to drive trucks - why not put something on the back of them?" said Lt. Col. Christopher Weskamp, commander of the Nebraska National Guard's 734th Transportation Battalion.
Planning on a different cycle than the active Army and taking civilian jobs and college student schedules into account often makes it difficult to find real-world missions, Weskamp noted. Units like the 734th, with citizen Soldiers who double as dairy farmers, restaurant owners, carpenters, transportation inspectors and more, must be flexible enough to meet the mission's time constraints.
Once committed though, these units take full advantage of the training opportunities provided. Rather than traversing the Nebraska plains, Operation Patriot Bandoleer allowed truck drivers to test their mettle across multiple states and mountainous terrain. For full-timers or those on extended orders, the mission has a deeper impact.
"This has been our whole world for the past six to eight months," said Capt. Tim Buskirk of the 734th Transportation Battalion, who was on temporary active duty orders to help coordinate the mission.
After an initial get together with participating units, communication throughout the planning and execution phase fell into line, Buskirk said.
"It's all about communication, and everybody was really excited about this mission," he said. "That made coordination easy."
From team missions around the world, to opportunities for individual Soldiers in its headquarters, AMC continues to incorporate the Reserve Component into its fold.
"We could not do what we do on the active side without the Total Force Concept," said AMC Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Edward Daly. "We're on a great glide path and we've got to continue this irreversible momentum for the future."