Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.- In 2003, military units used the equipment they had on hand to conduct the invasion of Iraq. The movement from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait to Baghdad, Iraq consisted of a 450 mile movement with fighting throughout.
From Apr. 3 -- 9, the 17th Field Artillery Brigade and its subordinate units are conducting a 550 mile movement from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. to Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho.
"Col. Wendland [commander of the 17th FA Bde.] keeps saying, if we are called upon to fight our Nation's wars we will use the equipment we have in the motorpool to do it," said Sgt. 1st Class William Falby, the digital master gunner non-commissioned officer with 17th FA Bde. "So we have created a training opportunity to test our equipment and the soldiers' ability to maneuver over long distances."
The brigade is stressing its equipment and soldiers with a three day movement. The intent is to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the command and control aspects of multiple units leaving at different times and preforming convoy operations on a large scale.
"We are used to short movements," said Falby. "Yet this is the first time in a long time that the brigade has moved this long of a distance."
Before any of this is possible, there is a lot of coordination that needs to be made.
"This is a big movement!" said 1st Lt. Lesmes Acevedo, 17th FA Bde. mobility officer. "We have to know the types and amount of vehicles that are going, then making sure the three States that we are moving through are tracking our movement and timeline."
Acevedo went on to explain that this is the simplest part of the movement but there is a lot more that goes into it.
"The mobility team has been working on this for several months now," said Acevedo. "We have been coordinating where the rest stops will be, how a vehicle will be recovered if it breaks down, and where all of the refueling points will be. Along with all of this, we are tracking the personnel and vehicles that are being taken and ensuring that they are manifested correctly before they leave JBLM."
The other challenge to this movement is the vehicle maintenance.
"From the initial assessment of the equipment to today, has been a long drawn out process of inspecting, troubleshooting, and repairing multiple vehicle platforms," said Sgt. 1st Class David Blankenship, a maintenance NCO with 308th Brigade Support Battalion. "We have implemented processes that were needed and hadn't yet been completed, to include purchasing equipment and on the technical side of things, tactical communications management system components and the integration of the newer equipment the vehicles needed."
"The vision of Idaho was first brought up back in August, September but we haven't been working solely on getting ready for this movement," said Chief Warrant Officer two Vikramjit Kang, a maintenance warrant officer with 308th BSB. "Since January we have had multiple company and battalion field exercises and evaluations, so we have been working around the clock to keep the vehicle not ready for Idaho but just to keep them in the fight."
Kang said that, keeping the vehicles up on their inspections, their usage repairs and juggling his man power between the daily requirements of being a soldier while also fighting with the amount of time in the day, has been the most difficult part of the maintenance piece of the movement. Yet, they have been able to ensure that the vehicles were ready to go.
With all the planning and maintenance that has gone into this movement, and with it being only the first leg of the exercise, one thing holds true.
"This is all about teamwork," said Acevedo. "Everyone pulling their weight because without it, we won't be able to move the whole brigade."