By Capt. Scott Walters (3rd ABCT, 4th ID)May 15, 2017
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Long days last summer preparing their Supply Support Activity (SSA) at Fort Carson, Colorado, for the U.S. Army Forces Command Supply Excellence Award competition are translating into smoother operations in Europe for supply handlers at the 64th Brigade Support Battalion.
These days the 64th BSB warehouse team normally pushes out parts as big as tank engines and as small as washers to other units within the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team from its European SSA at the brigade's Atlantic Resolve headquarters here.
But on May 11 it was Maj. Gen. Ryan F. Gonsalves, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, and Division Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Crosby delivering some award hardware to the unit. The 64th BSB Soldiers earned the runner-up billing in the FORSCOM competition's SSA category.
The lessons learned preparing for the competition have turned out to be the real reward, as the SSA now processes and ships parts from Germany to 3/4 ABCT combined-arms battalions spread across eight countries from the Baltic to the Black seas.
"The competition rates you on your command supply discipline, which forced us to really tighten up our procedures. Using what we learned from that, especially with distribution of parts all over Europe, has helped us tremendously," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyona Hendricks, 64th BSB SSA accountable officer.
Since arriving in Europe in January, efficiency in processing parts has been essential to ensuring the brigade remains ready to fight as it provides a persistent presence across eastern Europe. As the regionally allocated land force for Atlantic Resolve, the ABCT serves as a deterrent to aggression in support of NATO Allies and partners.
The SSA competition put 64th BSB Soldiers through a crucible of stress that has unintentionally prepared them for heavier load in Europe. FORSCOM inspectors visited the SSA during a three-week window in July 2016 between a brigade 20-day field training exercise called Iron Strike and a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
"We had 20 days - all long hours - to get ready for that inspection at the most challenging time, but the Soldiers made it happen," said Hendricks, who added that her Soldiers renovated the entire warehouse to make it more customer friendly and reviewing supply regulations to ensure every Soldier understood doctrine.
That resulted in a score of 248 out of 250 during the August inspection.
Now after four months in Europe working under Atlantic Resolve, the SSA has delivered more than 18,000 parts to Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. By comparison, during the same period last year back home in Colorado, the SSA processed 7,700 parts.
"Parts change hands often here, whether they're going to Romania or Estonia, so accountability is key. But if everyone is doing their job all the way to the customer, from labeling parts correctly to getting them on the right trucks, then we're accomplishing our mission to ensure that we're building combat power out there for our units," Hendricks said.
Cpl. Jeffery Penn understands better than anyone that if the right processes aren't in place, then parts won't go to the right places.
As the non-commissioned officer in charge of the issuing section, he said the FORSCOM competition helped each SSA section fine-tune their procedures. It's benefited the team now in a new environment, especially as new Soldiers arrive and must learn the supply ropes.
"We've got a new team that we're building now, but the processes established during the competition are in place and everybody is learning," said Penn, who was in charge of the SSA storage section at the time of the competition.
"It's exciting to see how the younger Soldiers that we were training during the competition last year have grown so much, and they know what's needed to produce everything that this SSA produces. They're sharing that knowledge with the new Soldiers," he said.