By Sgt. Cory GroganAugust 2, 2016
CINCU, Romania -- They say artillery wins battles, but logistics wins wars. If that is indeed true, the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team's logistics personnel are making their brigade a combat-ready force.
Last year, when the 116th CBCT attended a briefing for their 2015 annual training, they knew they had won an award for excellence in transportation after successfully moving millions of dollars of equipment to and from the National Training Center (NTC) in Fort Irwin, California.
What they did not know was that they would again have to prove their worthiness for such accolades the next year with an even more challenging mission at Exercise Saber Guardian by moving more than 450 tracked and wheeled vehicles, and nearly 50 large shipping containers to Cincu, Romania.
The brigade, with elements in Idaho, Montana and Oregon, has moved an unprecedented amount of equipment in support of the mission in Romania, demonstrating that a National Guard brigade can serve as a mobile force multiplier, capable of moving citizen soldiers and equipment from their home state to almost anywhere in the world.
"I knew it was going to be a huge task, and that we needed to find enough good people to get the equipment on the rail, then get it to the port, to cross the Atlantic on ship, and then come back," said Maj. Douglas Uphoff, brigade logistics officer.
Saber Guardian 2016 is a multinational military exercise involving approximately 2,800 military personnel from 10 nations. Uphoff said he learned about the mission to move more than 500 pieces of equipment like tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and much more to Romania in November 2015 after a brief from their NTC training.
"I think It's important to show that we can move a National Guard combined arms battalion this far for training," Uphoff said. "This is a chance for others to take lessons learned that could benefit the rest of the guard if this continues to be a mission priority."
Uphoff said the 116th CBCT is the first National Guard unit to take on a logistics mission to move that much equipment for training, and that there is a tremendous feeling of pride and responsibility that comes with ensuring it is done successfully. Without the right personnel in the right place, Uphoff said that the effort would not have been possible.
"The relationships you build as a team in a situation like this is the best part," said Uphoff. "We brought volunteers who worked their tails off to make this a success. Cooperation and attitude made this successful."
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Steven Howell, the brigade mobility officer, took a pause from his federal technician job in Idaho to support the mission. He said taking an operational force overseas is an excellent opportunity to get practical experience that supports the logistic movement for a combat deployment.
"This has been a huge challenge for all of us involved not having typical mobilization resources," Howell explained. "Everybody is a volunteer, but luckily we were able to get great people who have stepped up to the challenge."
Howell and Uphoff agreed that, even though the task is difficult, it is a great training opportunity and rewarding in many ways.
"Overall this is a great learning experience and very rewarding; it helped that we just completed NTC," added Howell.
Howell said it is very beneficial that the 116th CBCT was able to move a large amount of equipment to and from California last year, and to think that successfully moving that much equipment from the pacific northwest to Romania gives him a great feeling of accomplishment.
"This is a chance that we get to deploy and redeploy that we don't normally get as a guard unit. This is a new, great opportunity for the National Guard to practice our mission essential task list for logistic movement," Howell explained.
Howell said he hopes other National Guard units will be able to do the same in future.
"My hope is that if there are units that are not going to deploy that they would start utilizing the Guard more to get this type of experience."
Assistant Brigade Logistics Officer Capt. Cody Rutz, another volunteer from the 116th CBCT who has accepted the challenge of moving the National Guard brigade overseas, says he has been involved in every piece of the movement from the port survey to make sure equipment can safely cross the ocean, to food, fuel, tools, equipment and much more.
"It was very rewarding seeing the first vehicles making it to the training area. To actually see all the equipment get here with no damage is gratifying," said Rutz.
Rutz feels it's important to pave the way for future armor units to develop realistic plans to execute the same type of training mission.
"We take pride being the first National Guard element participating in this type of mission, and to know that we got the job done on relatively short notice," Rutz said.
Even though a large part of the mission -- the move from Romania back to the U.S. -- remains ahead of them, Rutz, Howell, Uphoff and the rest of the team take pride knowing that all of the millions of dollars of equipment they have moved is intact, and that their groundbreaking effort is making their brigade battle ready.