By Staff Sgt. Luis DelgadilloFebruary 15, 2018
In the scenario, brigade Soldiers replicated a complex contested battlefield; integrated in processing, also known as, reception, staging, onward movement, and integration; lived in austere conditions; and defended against an active enemy force. The soldiers then incorporated the roles of four different units, transporting Soldiers to the area of operation, providing life support to that area of operation and successfully completing individual and crew serve weapons qualification events. This is what readiness-focused training should look like under Ready Force X (RFX).
The Army Reserve's RFX initiative is intended to increase the readiness of our force to respond to the nation's requirements for a capable and lethal force.
"Our standards and goals have always been high. The focus brought by the Ready Force X initiative has given energy and drive to train under increasingly austere and complex situations," said Col. Troy A. D'Agostino, commander of the 55th Sustainment Brigade. "We have brought a warfighting focus to the 55th Sustainment Brigade and will continue to hone our edge to be ready to sustain our forces anytime, anywhere."
A sustainment brigade's job is to provide a senior sustainment headquarters in an operational environment to ensure that all elements of sustainment - logistics, personnel support, and financial management activities - are capable and poised to sustain forces in any operational environment. Such a critical role and the need to be able to deploy under compressed timelines is what gives leaders of RFX units a greater sense of urgency to meet readiness goals.
"Over two thirds of our brigade formation is either designated as RFX, currently deployed, or recently returned. The tempo of operations in the 55th Sus. Bde. is nearly unmatched in the Army Reserve," said D'Agostino.
During Operation Heinz, the brigade headquarters' role was to support the training event while Soldiers of the brigade's 55th Special Troops Battalion and other lower echelon units were participants in the scenario. The training for these units included evaluation from the brigade's visiting First Army observer controller/trainer mentor teams. Altogether, Soldiers of the brigade's 319th and 200th Movement Control Teams, the 410th Brigade Signal Company and the brigade's 55th STB all completed and received 'go' on the tasks they were required to perform.
"In the grand scheme of things, in terms of milestones and objectives we have another METL (mission essential task list) proficiency exercise in March, we have annual training from 15 May to about mid-June but those are milestones," said Lt. Col. Christian Hall, commander of the 55th STB. "We're training for the bigger picture, to fight and win wars."
Among the highlights of the training was the STBs utilization of the 410th BSC. Hall said that for the first time ever, the sustainment brigade's own 410th BSC Soldiers provided direct support for the establishment of communications networks, which included very small aperture satellite or VSAT, which enables communications in austere environments. Most significantly, the 410th BSC also establish real time links with the Army's overarching network communications framework, the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. These essential tasks performed by Soldier of the 410th BSC were just a small example of the brigade flexing its capabilities.
Another first for the brigade, was the self-support of food and fuel for the entire exercise. The availability of the fuel was a game changer because it helped the brigade minimize training interruptions. While fuel keeps the trucks and the mission moving, food arguably plays a greater role by keeping Soldiers motivated and leaning forward against adversity. Bone chilling cold, minor equipment shortfalls and flexing schedules didn't prevent the Soldiers in the field from receiving hot rations. "You have to be prepared to adjust fire and keep it moving, said Spc. Vernicia Urquhart, a culinary arts specialist with the brigade. "Serving times get pushed up, they get pushed back so you have to adapt and overcome and be prepared for everything that may be thrown your way." Urquhart and her fellow culinary arts specialists received high praise for their ability to deliver food to multiple training sites simultaneously.
The ability to adapt quickly to conditions on the ground is perhaps one of the hallmarks of a sustainment brigade and inherent in that is the role of the noncommissioned officer.
"NCOs are important because they have the experience and the knowledge," said Staff Sgt. David Bush, a motor sergeant with the brigade's maintenance section. "They (NCOs) are the ones on the ground with the junior enlisted Soldier." During the exercise, Bush said NCOs reinforced main objectives of the training and communicated the missions, which were a part of the key collective tasks. He said he and his fellow NCOs utilized their experience to come up with game plans to be able to accomplish the mission. Bush, like other NCOs believes in the importance of transferring knowledge. In seeing the value of the weekend's training, he also sees a need for more. "We definitely need more of it because you could see where there were somethings that were going well but there were somethings that fell short ... I think that for a brigade moving forward which is responsible for managing smaller subordinate units, you have to be proficient across the board."
For Soldiers of the 55th Sus. Bde., the February battle training assembly was more than another field training exercise. It reinforced, in the realest terms, the sense of urgency behind Ready Force X. As the weekend wrapped up D'Agostino, took note and expressed pride in the progress made. Operation Heinz stressed his staff and subordinate units, but it also helped them see that with the adopting the right attitude maintaining their individual readiness, they can successfully hone their own combat edge.
"The tirelessness with which the brigade team approaches readiness is impressive, and really epitomizes our motto: Sustain the Force - Secure the Victory," he said.