FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PENNSYLVANIA -- With heat indexes soaring well into the triple digits, more than 300 New York Army National Guard Soldiers of the 369th Sustainment Brigade took to the firing ranges and training areas at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania for two weeks of pre-mobilization training, August 8-27.
For the Soldiers of the 369th Sustainment Brigade, the Army's famous "Harlem Hell Fighters" during World War I, this was not the normal two weeks of annual training that most National Guard Units conduct every summer.
The pre-mobilization training, known as PMT, prepared Soldiers of the brigade for deployment to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait later this year. The brigade will oversee the logistics and transportation operations in support of American and allied troops all across the Middle East.
The PMT serves a refresher course in basic Soldier tasks and warrior skills to prepare every individual Soldier for overseas deployment.
Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard's 106th Regional Training Institute (RTI) served as instructors, taking Soldiers through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on practical exercises.
The PMT's purpose is to "prepare Soldiers and units, from the individual Soldier, all the way up, collectively to prepare them to win on the battlefield," explained Sgt. 1st Class Michael Folta, a senior observer/controller for the 106th RTI's pre-mobilization evaluation team.
"The majority of these tasks are perishable skills," Folta says. "[In a] sustainment brigade, a lot of Soldiers don't normally get out there and operate in a tactical environment. So we go ahead and actually reinforce those skills out in the fight lanes to prepare them for success down range."
"The Soldiers of the 369th Sustainment Brigade are among the best trained, best prepared, and most motivated Soldiers anywhere in the Army. They should be very proud of their accomplishments at PMT," said Col. David Martinez, the 369th Sustainment Brigade Commander. "I have no doubt they will continue to meet and exceed the upcoming challenges at mobilization station and deployment. We are America's number One Sustainment Brigade."
In addition to qualifying on individually assigned weapons, Soldiers of the brigade refreshed their skills in map reading/land navigation, tactical casualty care, traffic control points, hand-to-hand combative fighting, counter-IED training and more.
The culminating training event was a mounted patrol fight lane incorporating many of the skills Soldiers learned throughout the two week course.
Soldiers performed a mounted convoy using Humvees to patrol a route to a simulated village where a suspected "high value target" was believed to be hiding.
Along the route, Soldiers faced combat scenarios from their instructors, including mock ambushes, simulated artillery fire or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and interactions with the local populace.
Spc. William Batson, a Brooklyn, N.Y. resident said he "got a lot out of the training."
The training made him feel much better prepared for the deployment, said Batson, a human resource specialist who will be deploying for the first time.
The 369th Sustainment Brigade was originally organized as the 15th New York Infantry in 1916 in Harlem and was an African-American unit in the segregated Army of the time.
In 1917, as the United States entered World War I, the unit was mustered into federal service and assigned to the 185th Infantry Brigade. In 1918 the 15th Infantry was renamed the 369th Infantry and assigned to France's 161st Division. The Soldiers served in combat under French command and earned a regimental Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) and many individual awards for heroism while serving under fire for 191 days in 1918. The unit's historic nickname, "The Hellfighters," was reportedly bestowed on them by their German opponents.
In June 2015, Sgt. Henry Johnson, a member of the 369th Infantry, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the military's highest award, by President Barack Obama for his heroism on the battlefield.
The 369th Sustainment Brigade is temporarily stationed at Camp Smith, N.Y. as their historic 5th Avenue Armory, along the banks of the East River in Harlem, undergoes a $42 million renovation. The 92 year old Armory are intended to update the building while also maintaining the building's historic elements and character.