FORT EUSTIS, Virginia -- The headquarters staff of the 597th Transportation Brigade have gone into warfighting mode today as exercise Turbo Challenge 19 kicks off at Fort Eustis.
The national exercise is being driven by the United States Transportation Command with the intention of testing the capabilities and operations of its units and its people.
"The last thing we want to do is to find out that we have shortcomings or gaps in our processes should hostilities break out," said Maj. Jason Crist, Plans Officer for the 597th Trans. Bde. "If the call goes out for all hands on deck, we need to be there and be ready to move quickly."
To do this, the unit will be working in shifts to conduct its 24-hour operations over the next five days of the exercise. In doing so, they will essentially be losing a third of their manpower for any given shift.
To make up for that difference, the unit has called in support from the Army Reserve. Ten Soldiers from the 1179th Transportation Brigade out of Fort Hamilton, New York, were called onboard to augment the 597th staff.
It's not a one for one exchange for what was lost by going to three shifts, but it is a big plus in filling the gaps.
The military planners say the reservists bring the extra transportation and logistics support needed when it was needed most.
The reservists also bring valuable and current real-world experience. Two of them recently returned from a deployment in the desert kingdom of Kuwait.
"We were ordered to deploy to the Port of Shuaibah in the south of Kuwait," said Capt. Jonathan McMichael, Operations Officer for the 1398th Deployment Distribution Support Battalion.
McMichael spent nine months there providing terminal management expertise at the port.
The exercise is designed create stress on 597th's normal operating routines.
"Not only will we still be conducting our typical day-jobs of moving vehicles and equipment around the world, now we are going to be moving a whole lot more and with substantially more variables built in," said Jim Pereira, Transportation Planner for the 597th. "Now we may have to deal with scenarios involving road closures, ship fires, and train derailments. The command wants to know how we are going to work around these situations in order to get Department of Defense vehicles and equipment to where it needs to be."
"Something different about this exercise is that we often are looking at only one section or aspect of the operation," Pereira said. "This is going to be a full brigade staff section exercise involving everyone -- supply, logistics, safety and public affairs."
As the 597th conducts its Turbo Challenge exercise, the 1190th Transportation Surface Brigade from Baton Rouge, LA, is also conducting Turbo Challenge as their annual training.
"Our goal during Turbo Challenge 19 is to learn from our active duty counterparts regarding their processes for mission command at a brigade level and how they array their staff," said Lt. Col. Gary Ellison, Deputy Commanding Officer of the 1190th Theater Sustainment Brigade. "Our intent is to improve our staff processes as Surface Warriors in order to deliver readiness and lethality with speed and strengthen our relationship with 597th…and we are getting exactly what we came here for."