By Capt. Samuel RollinsJuly 15, 2019
WINTHROP, Minn. - With thousands of Iowa Army National Guard (IANG) Soldiers trekking toward Camp Ripley, Minnesota, for annual training, approximately 12 Soldiers with the 334th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 2nd Brigade Combat Team, established a refueling point on a gravel lot at the United Farmer Co-op (UFC) facility in this southern Minnesota farming community.
As two Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT) pulled in from the main highway toward the lot, BSB Soldiers jumped to their feet and flipped on their fuel pumps to a dull roar.
The refueling crew was prepared for a very long work day as they were expecting 150 IANG vehicles and 500 troops through their fuel point that day alone. This was just one of many refueling points along the convoy routes as more than 3,800 Iowa and Minnesota National Guard Soldiers head to Camp Ripley to participate in the Exportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) designed to train brigade combat teams down to the platoon level.
During the XCTC, the components of the Brigade Combat Team (including infantry, cavalry, field artillery as well as engineers) will train in a dynamic and challenging scenario, during both day and night operations, in maneuvers and live-fire exercises specific to the combat and domestic taskings of each unit.
XCTC training tests, not just the Brigade Combat team itself, but also the quality of training of the real-life support elements also participating in the exercise such as aviation and logistics support units.
In planning for the move, these Soldiers experienced some typical Midwest hospitality as they scouted out easily accessible fuel points along the way.
"It all started with a call to our main office at our Winthrop grain facility," said Chad Schwartz, location manager and 12-year employee of UFC.
"Since I was in the National Guard for 25 years, they (my coworkers) sent me the message and I set it up," said Schwartz, who retired in the 1990s from the Minnesota National Guard as a combat engineer.
"Usually we use large truck stops and have up to six refueling vehicles at a site for refueling," said Lt. Col. Linda Craven, of Johnston, Iowa, Commander, 334th BSB. "We need the ability to stop, refuel, rest and stage for the next leg of our convoy."
Craven said it's nice to have a site off the main road to minimize the impact on local traffic during convoy operations.
As another IANG Guard convoy and two more refueling vehicles rolled in to top off their fuel tanks, Schwartz showed his 9-year old son, Chad Schwartz, specific upgrades in the equipment and vehicles since his time in uniform.
"We are glad we could help and that it worked out logistically, and the Soldiers had a good place to stop," said Schwartz, "especially since we have a facility that can handle this type of traffic."