By Staff Sgt. Ryan GetsieSeptember 6, 2019
CAMP ROBERTS, Calif. - "We had a rocket attack on LSA Archer where the current 757 Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and down-trace units are located."
Cpt. John Dekoning with the 757th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) was relaying information during the Command Post Exercise (CPX). Even though this was a simulated exercise, Dekoning took it very serious and began working through the details. He called the reporting commander back and asked for more specific data, known as the 5W's, so he could relay the details up to the Brigade.
"You have to know what's going on at all times to provide that picture for the Commander, you are his eyes and ears," Dekoning said.
From August 2 - 14, over 100 Soldiers from the 17th Sustainment Brigade conducted annual training at Camp Roberts, Calif. The brigade is comprised of four sections: Brigade Staff, Support Operations (SPO), Special Troops Battalion, and Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC).
The CPX included roughly 331 Soldiers on the ground; this included a sustainment brigade, three battalions, and three companies from three different states. The exercise was notionally based on computer data, but the staff had to do calculations using the information received and then push out orders that would direct subordinate units to send out additional commodities, such as fuel, water, food, and ammunition. In addition, the brigade had to coordinate with its higher element for mission analysis as well, the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC).
To put things into perspective, the brigade planned and coordinated a simulated distribution of 2.5 million gallons of fuel and 340 thousand gallons of water per day. Over the four-day exercise, that was enough to fill 15 Olympic size pools with petrol and give 7,000 people a gallon of water per day for about 6 months.
Col. Troy E. Armstrong, commander of the 17th Sustainment Brigade summarized the scope of training.
"This is a large scale simulated exercise that allows a brigade to exercise its staff in the operations, planning, and the decision making process."
There are many moving parts that went into the operation, but the process has roughly three areas of focus when it comes to communication between units. The logistic synchronization focuses on coordinating future commodity requirements for sustained operations. The transportation synchronization deals with the transfer requirements for these commodities. Finally, the distribution component prioritizes these combined assets and feeds a draft order for operations.
When discussing the overall training and coordination between the units involved, Armstrong elaborated.
"This is a simulated exercise developed by Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) to allow a large sustainment brigade headquarters to train its staff, which typically can't be done on drill weekend. We all had an opportunity to walk through our staff processes, develop our communication, look at our SOP's, and increase our overall mission effectiveness."
The AT mission was to train the staff, but the notional charge was to support the 35th Infantry Division (ID) in its effort to defend the host nation against aggression. The simulations, otherwise known as "injects", played a pivotal role in how units communicated with each other. The instructors created several scenarios such as rocket attacks on convoys, riots outside military installations, and natural disasters, all of which challenged Soldiers.
Communicating internally and with other adjacent units was of utmost importance during the exercise. Like most operations in the walk phase, it had a bumpy start, but eventually, the collaboration between the units began to gel.
Lt. Col. Chris McCartry, commander of the 746th CSSB from California talked about the growing pains and take away from this CPX.
"In the beginning there was a real learning curve; we had to get back into the groove of things. Now at the end of the exercise, I think everyone is comfortable and has a clear understanding of their job and what they're supposed to do. That, for us, was an absolute home run."
This coordinated exercise for the 746th has been vital to enhancing their warfighting capabilities. "In the event, we get called up we would know what to do and what we should be tracking," McCartry said.
When reflecting on the overall training benefit this exercise had for the Soldiers of 757th CSSB, Command Sgt. Maj. Shauna Reese added.
"This is going to build our camaraderie and ensure we're successful in our next mission."
The CPX took place at one of the most historic Army training facilities in the United States. Camp Roberts was built just before the start of World War II. At one point during the war there were over 40,000 soldiers training on the post. Close to a half-million soldiers trained there during the Korean War. The installation continued to train Soldiers through the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and currently with our Country's War on Terror.
The 17th Sustainment Brigade and all the subordinate units involved in this exercise joined the ranks in becoming a part of that Camp Roberts history.
Maj. An Vu, Support Operations Officer with the 746th CSSB, talked about what training at Roberts meant to him.
"It makes you feel like you're a part of something bigger. And I think that is why a lot of Soldiers join the military. They want to be a part of something bigger and greater than themselves."