LIBREVILLE, Gabon -- Members of the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and 79th Sustainment Command (Support) joined U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) exercise planners to conduct Judicious Activation 17-2, by setting up an Early Entry Command Post (EECP), July 24-30, 2017, in Libreville, Gabon.
Judicious Activation, a quarterly exercise run by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), is in its first year of existence. During this iteration, it was the Army's responsibility to run the exercise-the responsibility will fall to other military components during other cycles.
"This exercise is short in duration, but I think it packs a good punch," said Maj. Benjamin C. Tumlinson, the lead planner for Judicious Activation 17-2 (J-ACT-17-2), and USARAF's exercise deputy. "There's great lessons to be learned from this exercise and that's what it's for."
The focus of this exercise was to test an expeditionary sustainment command's ability to deploy to a forward location and set up an early entry command post-a forward location capable of managing logistics for troops before the main element deploys and long-term structures are in place.
"It's a small piece of the ESC designed to go forward as a tactical command post to set the theater as folks flow in," said Lt. Col. Dennis Bowers, the support operations officer for the 13th ESC. "This gave us an opportunity to get after training."
About 35 members of the 13th ESC arrived in Gabon at a small, contained location and within four hours set up tents for their center of operations. The location, called a Cooperative Security Location (CSL), included two pre-existing hard structures that were used as the dining facility and a meeting area-all other life support items were brought in.
"We get to come down and test out the systems in place for the CSL-in this particular location, the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) portion of has never been activated," Tumlinson explained.
According to Tumlinson, putting the LOGCAP, or contracting portion of the exercise, to the test is important, as often the military relies on local contractors in deployed locations to supply some goods and services that would otherwise be very costly to transport.
"Everything that you see here (life support), minus the military equipment-it's all LOGCAP," Tumlinson said. LOGCAP provided tents for lodging, a wooden shower structure, Porta Potties, and two hot meals per day.
Part of what makes J-ACT-17-2 unique, is that it is one of the 13th ESC's last exercises acting as USARAF's regionally-aligned sustainment force, while the 79th SSC, an Army Reserve unit, stands ready to transition into a Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) in September take over the USARAF sustainment mission in December.
"What we really gain out of this is getting an opportunity to integrate directly with USARAF," said Capt. Valentin J. Boza, a support operations plans officer with the 79th SSC.
Boza and three other members of the 79th SSC attended J-ACT-17-2 in an observational capacity, and to facilitate the exercise's after action review. Boza explained that it is critical for the 79th to have a presence on the African continent during USARAF exercises, because in the near future, it will be the 79th supporting them.
"Africa is a very challenging continent logistically-it's unlike any other geographic combatant command's area of responsibility," Boza said. "And as USARAF gains the operational capabilities of a TSC, it gives USARAF the opportunity to expand its logistics infrastructure across the continent."
Boza expounded that the continent of Africa really tests logisticians' capabilities-as each country has different contracting capabilities, laws, and governments. He added that because of the challenges of operating on the African continent, exercises like these meet Chief of the Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey's guidance on showcasing the ability of the Army Reserve as the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal federal Reserve force in the history of the nation.
"The added benefit of this exercise is that we've been able to have Army units engage directly with multinational partners and that's a success story, not just for the Army, but for the U.S. as a whole," Boza said.
Concurrently while the 13th ESC exercised its ability to set up and run an EECP, a platoon of 101st Soldiers integrated with and conducted training alongside Gabonese troops from 1st Regiment Parachute Gabon. Training the platoons conducted together included physical fitness, a terrain walk, and situational training.
Troops from the 101st experienced a range of training locations including rainforest in Libreville's jungle warfare center, and more urban conditions training on a Gabonese Armed Forces base.
"Overall it's been a very good experience, a very eye-opening experience," said Capt. Calvin L. Torbert, commander of A Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
"The first thing that stands out about the Gabonese is how generous they are-how kind they are," Torbert said. "You expect it from your brothers in arms to look out for you and help you out, and they've treated us like that."
Torbert's platoon culminated the three days of training by hosting a small, informal ceremony where troops from both units traded patches and unit insignia.
"Despite the fact that we grew up on different sides of the world-very different cultures-we still have a lot in common," Torbert said." With the right mindset and the right attitude, you can find common ground with anyone."