By Maj. Phil Castillo, 402nd Army Field Support BrigadeMay 7, 2018
(Editor's note: Maj. Phil Castillo was the Brigade Logistics Support Team chief with the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade that provided support to the 1st Brigade, 25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The U.S. Army Sustainment Command, which oversees the 402nd AFSB, integrates and synchronizes the delivery of the U.S. Army Materiel Command's capabilities and enablers at the operational and tactical points of need. BLSTs accomplish this by focusing and customizing acquisition, logistics, and technology support. In this article, Castillo provides a firsthand account of this BLST assistance during a series of exercises called Pacific Pathways.)
The 1st Brigade, 25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team's Brigade Logistics Support Team provided technical assistance to the warfighter during two iterations of Pacific Pathways in 2017 spread throughout five countries in the Pacific region.
Pacific Pathways is a series of exercises in the Pacific region designed to strengthen relationships among allies through operational and humanitarian support training.
It is a sequenced execution of multiple exercises at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, geographic combatant command, and Army service component command levels. It also provides the U.S. Pacific Command with a persistent land force presence west of the international dateline, without additional basing requirements.
An SBCT is an infantry-centric unit which provides the Army with a lethal, deployable, survivable, and mobile option formed around the 10 variants of the Stryker vehicle. Stryker brigades fills the operational gaps between the Army's light forces and the heavy forces still fielded with Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and is a key component of Army transformation.
The response during Pacific Pathways is immediate, with the BLST team deploying prior to the supported units. The team is in place to set the conditions during the Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration phases into the region, ensuring the warfighter mission command systems are validated and fully mission capable.
The BLST supported the PACOM training objectives with a team fully immersed into the supported brigade's leadership decision-making process in order to provide solutions for the unit.
The first of five exercises during Pacific Pathways in 2017 was Talisman Saber, held in Australia.
This exercise included units from 1-25th SBCT; 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment (Hawaii), and the 169th Infantry Regiment Army National Guard, New York.
The SBCT and 2-25th Avn. Regt. had combined assets of 159 pieces of equipment excluding aircraft. During the loadout, all equipment was broken down to the lowest configuration in order to pass the Australian Defense Agricultural, Forestry and Fishery inspections that were held at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
The SBCT worked 24-hour operations in order to meet the timeline established by the agricultural inspection team for vessel upload at the Anchorage, Alaska, port. Once sanitized, the equipment was quarantined.
Although this operation took several weeks to complete, the unit met all timelines necessary for rail upload to port.
With agricultural inspections completed, the units uploaded all equipment to the vessel Ocean Jazz in May 2017. With a single Military Sealift Command vessel providing all movement across the Pacific Ocean to the port in Gladstone, Australia, timing and space availability were critical factors in the equipment reaching the port on time.
The BLST officer in charge deployed prior to the rest of the BLST in order to link up with both U.S. Army Pacific and Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command personnel for equipment download operations.
USARPAC is an Army Service Component Command and the Army component unit of the U.S. Pacific Command headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii; SDDC is an Army Service Component Command -- supporting the U.S. Pacific Command -- headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Once the downloading was completed, all equipment was line-hauled to various locations near the coastline of northeast Australia, including Camp Rocky, Williamson Airfield, and Sam Hill (169th's ARNG location). All aircraft were off-loaded and towed to a marshaling area at the port where they were assembled and flown to Townsville, nearly 500 miles north of Rockhampton, Australia.
With the BLST now positioned, the Logistics Assistance Representatives, or LARs as they are commonly called, quickly started troubleshooting equipment during the Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration phases at Camp Rocky. Equipment was validated and then moved into position at a designated staging base for insertion into the Shoal Water Bay Training Area.
The units then received orders from the 3rd Brigade, Australian Army, throughout the exercise. With host country parameters in place, the BLST was only allowed into the training area with proper documentation that had to be completed daily, and sent to the Combined Joint Task Force headquarters Operations cell.
Each request was accompanied by a transportation control number for authorization in the training area that was validated at the gates by Australian soldiers. Once the BLST worked through these requests, the BLST continued to provide support to the U.S. forces on ground.
The BLST was visited by Col. Thomas Carlson, a science and technology adviser from the U.S. Research, Development and Engineering Command, headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Carlson was there to ask U.S. Soldiers about innovative ways to live and operate in the field. For example, he looked at individual sleeping tents and received Soldier input on how to make them more functional.
He also traveled with the team daily to the field and spent numerous hours talking to the Soldiers about their equipment, readiness, and ways to improve overall effectiveness in the field.
With training culminating, the BLST disassembled and its members flew back to their home stations. It was a good opportunity for the BLST to work closely with international allies. The team met all expectations while deployed by providing outstanding support in the field and expert advice to the Soldiers on ground.