By Michael StrasserMay 24, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 24, 2018) -- Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) are exercising their capabilities to rapidly move - with short notice - personnel, equipment and vehicles by rail, sea and air. A logistically, complex operation, it is being accomplished with the support of division assets and several Fort Drum garrison and tenant directorates.
Mountain Strike, a U.S. Army Forces Command-directed sea emergency deployment readiness exercise (SEDRE), is one of the largest of its kind being conducted by a 10th Mountain Division brigade in years.
According to readiness standard operating procedures, a 96-hour deadline begin May 17 to get all the rolling stock and containers off Fort Drum and moving to the Port of Philadelphia for sea transport. Personnel from the Logistics Readiness Center-Drum and Public Works assisted Soldiers with the inspection and staging of equipment and vehicles before loading and securing everything to railcars at the Fort Drum Railhead.
"Our people go in and inspect all the vehicles for weights, measurements and all that is required before putting something on a railcar," said David Schumacher, LRC-Drum operations planning specialist. "We are there to make sure that everyone is aware of inspection standards, and help them to properly package their vehicles for shipment."
Diane Scott, Installation Logistics Division chief at LRC-Drum, said that they assist with any class of supplies the brigade might need - such as meals ready to eat, clothing and ammunition. Central Issue Facility staff provides Soldiers with protective gear and plates for their body armor. The Supply and Services Division handles ammunition draw for Soldiers who need to qualify on their weapons.
"And this is any time of the day during this exercise," Scott said. "Once the exercise started, we went on 24-hour operations and we continue that until we don't need to anymore."
LRC also operates the hazardous material control point with HAZMAT certified personnel available during the inspections. Examples of such material can be anything from oil and paint to batteries.
"That hazardous material paperwork has to be reviewed. If we weren't able to do that here, and that vehicle got to the port, they would frustrate it there and it wouldn't get on the ship," Scott said. "Fuel tankers have to be placarded and have all the paperwork, and they're purged before they get on the trains."
Scott said that radio frequency identification tags and shipping labels are printed for each piece of equipment after its inspection.
"Those labels will track everything leaving the gate to wherever it goes," she said.
The Directorate of Emergency Services and 91st Military Police Detachment established traffic control points near the Fort Drum Railhead in anticipation of traffic delays and detours due to increased military vehicle and rail movements. Additionally, a traffic alert was distributed via email to the Fort Drum community earlier in the week.
"There is so much that goes on with unit moves, and people work really hard at it," Scott said.
A SEDRE doesn't just materialize overnight, Schumacher said. The "Ready Now" concept of rapid deployments and how the 10th Mountain Division would respond to one at Fort Drum has long been the subject of numerous discussions, working groups and phone and email traffic.
"I was an infantryman for 20-some years, and all I knew was packing my rucksack and going to the airfield," Schumacher said. "Everything else just happened somehow. Well, now I know half of that happens right here. The LRC is so linked in with everyone at the installation because, pretty much, at one time or another we've had to reach out for assistance with something, or vice-versa."
Schumacher said that they eventually got to a smooth, systematic flow of operations, but the first several hours of the exercise were best described as chaotic.
"But that's why setting up the Mountain Operation Center (MOC) is critical," Schumacher said. "That's where all the battle captains, liaison officers, division, garrison representatives are getting all the information from the ground - at the nodes as we call them - to report back status on how many vehicles went through inspections or how many Soldiers need to go to Clark Hall for processing."
Dave Campbell, DPTMS Planning, Operations and Mobilization chief of operations, said the MOC is the sole hub of information flow and coordination for the exercise.
"We work especially close with the G-3 (Division Operations), and they have a great staff, so we are very well synched with the division on everything," Campbell said. "When they begin 24-hour operations, so does DPTMS and LRC, and that's so that they get the installation support they may need at any given time."
Campbell said that Building 1240, the division marshalling area, was previously on the list for demolition until it was identified during a previous EDRE that is could be repurposed for pre-deployment inspections.
"LRC and DPW made sure that building was 100 percent ready to support the brigade," he said. "They rewired permanent lights, put in hand wash stations and latrines. They made sure all the lights were good to go at the railhead too. DPW has a big role in this, and worked very close with LRC because they basically ran all the inspections in the building."
The 6000 yard served as the staging area for the equipment and vehicles, and Campbell said that when it filled to capacity, additional space was requested through DPW's real property branch.
"There is so much activity behind the scenes, so many people involved, it's pretty amazing to see," Campbell said. "Having such great teams involved makes it that much easier for everyone. I mean, I was here Saturday and Sunday, with people working overtime on this and they're not just kicking rocks around. We really flexed our 24-hour and extended operations with this exercise."
When the railhead operations concluded May 21, Campbell said it enabled 2BCT Soldiers to continue personnel readiness requirements at Clark Hall leading up to their departure from Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield to Fort Polk, Louisiana, in June.
"The whole Directorate of Human Resources team does such an awesome job streamlining that process," Campbell said. "I stop by the nodes at least once or twice a day, and I see how well that has been going."
The Army's checklist for deployment is DA Form 7425, which has 75 items every Soldier is required to have validated before leaving post.
"We are doing the SRP as if this was a deployment, and because of that, we have to validate all 75 items on the checklist," said James Garrett, Military Personnel Division chief in the Directorate of Human Resources. "It helps us test our program and our process, so we know if we have the right things in place and we know the number of people it really takes to do this. Can we really do what we said we can do? If we said we could process 250 Soldiers in an eight hour period, can we push it to 300 or 350 if we had to?"
The SRP process includes immunizations, hearing, vision and dental checks. Medical records are reviewed and Soldiers are screened by a behavioral health specialist. Other stations cover financial, legal and other personnel requirements. Many of those items can be completed at the unit level - such as making sure Soldiers have their ID tags, and have attended mandatory briefings on the Geneva Convention and Uniform Code of Military Justice.
"Wills, power of attorney and life insurance are examples of unit checks that should be in place, but we'll make sure they're good," Garrett said. "Medically, we'll make sure they have the right standard immunizations that any adult Soldier should have, and then theater-specific ones."
A schedule was created to give every unit within 2BCT sufficient time to process through SRP, but it also injects extra time for Soldiers unable to meet their validation window.
"Every night, we go through this schedule with all the major players to include the G-3 and G-1, to review what is happening and if we need to make changes on our schedule," he said. "If we didn't do this, we'd have Soldiers sitting out there frustrated and angry, and that's not what we want. We're trying to work the flow in such a fashion that it is as smooth and quick as possible for the Soldiers."
Garrett said that many of those on his team are prior service and they know how it feels to wait in long lines, or not being able to continue on with a mission because a box on their paperwork hasn't been checked.
"It's a huge machine - a huge amount of people and effort to move all these Soldiers and we're very fortunate to have a team, with the amount of knowledge they have, who knows how to do this," he said.
Mark Oldroyd, Personnel Services Branch chief, frequently walks from station to station, looking for friction points and identifying how best to keep everything moving efficiently.
He said that on a normal day, the SRP medical station sees both inprocessing and outprocessing Soldiers and can accommodate about 60 without any additional staffing. When the exercise commenced, they had processed roughly 1,300 Soldiers in a six day period.
"We could probably have fit more in, but the system is working well," he said. "There really hasn't been any challenges we haven't been able to deal with."
Solving the logistical challenges of expanding their process for an entire brigade on short deployment notice was addressed long before the start of the exercise. Oldroyd said that they were directed in December to figure out how they would organize an SRP in case of a rapid deployment.
He said they considered setting up stations in a gymnasium or at a clinic - and how would they computer systems in place and the refrigeration required for immunizations.
"Finally we decided that doing it in Clark Hall and expanding just a little bit of the footprint of the medical section would work," Oldroyd said. "We already had the capability in the legal section, and there are only five computers on the installation that have the ability to produce wills. We have two machines ready to produce ID tags. All of these things we brought together that were simple, off-the-shelf ideas are sustainable, and that's what we wanted to get to."
So, when the SEDRE alert went out Oldroyd said they were able to respond faster than they had originally planned. One of the ways to expedite the process, he said, was educating unit leadership.
"What we wanted to do was show them that you have to build readiness in order to be 'Ready Now.' When the commanding general says you have to be out the door, that's not the time to start on the 75 checks," Oldroyd said. "Those checks that can be done outside of the SRP should already be done. We haven't quite gotten there yet."
Oldroyd listed off a number of things - nightly synch meetings, working groups - that ensured everyone understood expectations and could execute in a joint effort.
"We have to be able to synchronize and integrate not just within the Directorate of Human Resources staff, but MEDDAC, the brigade surgeon's staff, G-1, G-3, Staff Judge Advocate staff, contractors of different forms - so we're also learning a lot," he said.
Just as the brigade is validating its Soldiers' ability to rapidly deploy, Oldroyd said that, from the Human Resources perspective, they are evaluating their own procedures to see how they can better support such a deployment.
"We've had a lot of help, and for what we've been asked to do, the professionalism of the brigade and division staff has been phenomenal," he said. "When we started, they might not necessarily have understood the way we were looking at things, but they were willing to listen instead of telling us what they were going to do. We've been part of the solution from the get-go, and that helps. Our job is to take care of Soldiers, and we've been able to get at that consistently."
Campbell said that once the SEDRE concludes, there will be enough feedback generated from everyone involved - including the readiness evaluators from FORSCOM, Installation Management Command and Transportation Command - to refine how future EDREs will be conducted at Fort Drum.
"This is definitely needed, and I'm glad we're doing it," he said. "Every installation needs to go through an exercise to this extent and really push their abilities, and this definitely does that."