FORT IRWIN, Calif. -Soldiers rushed to seek refuge behind cover, be it a berm, armored vehicle or shallow ditches in the Mojave Desert, as "INCOMING" echoed throughout the Regimental Support Area during their rotation for two weeks in "The box" at the National Training Center Oct. 25 - Nov. 8.
As troopers with the Regimental Support Squadron recovered from simulated Indirect Fire, they shifted their collective focus to defending their area of operations. Attacks from the NTC's Opposing Forces, almost a daily occurrence, tested RSS's ability to cope with two competing priorities: sustainment and self-defense.
"It has become second nature to shift from support operations to defense," said Sgt. Mohamed Malik after one of the attacks.
After the IDF by the OPFOR, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, "Blackhorse", the RSS returned to logistical support and restoring combat power to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Operating under the hue of red lights, mechanics and technicians responded to simulated catastrophic failures of the 3rd CR's flagship vehicle, the Stryker, while simultaneously working on real-world battle-damaged vehicles the regiment required to accomplish the mission.
"As soon as one Stryker is mission ready, we get called to recover the next one," said Pfc. Ben Orszulak, a member of the service and recovery team.
Over the course of the rotation in "The Box", the RSS service and recovery team executed recovery missions for 119 pieces of equipment. Combined with the efforts of RSS technicians, who ensured vehicles are fully mission capable, Blacksmith Troop returned 150 vehicles back to the fight.
"Our mechanics and technicians know how critical turnaround time is for the equipment to get back into Soldiers' hands..." said Kenneth Weddle, the maintenance troop 1st Sgt.
Sustainment resources are required all over NTC's vast battlefield. Packhorse Troop coordinated convoys through the treacherous trails of the Mojave Desert and aerial resupply missions. Air corridors littered with enemy anti-air missile launchers were essential to maintaining combat power on the front lines.
"We aren't merely a supporting element for our squadron, we provide all classes of supply down to the movement of troopers that require these very supplies to accomplish their own goals," said Staff Sgt. Donald Haslim, the transportation platoon sergeant.
Participating in over 60 convoys and 13 aerial resupply missions, Haslim, experienced the fast-paced movements first hand. He said that the RSS's ability to reach squadrons in isolated regions of the battlefield gave the "Brave Rifles" leverage over the OPFOR.
This leverage was accomplished by delivering more than 95,500 gallons of fuel, 37,000 gallons of water, 60 pallets of MREs, 18 Matrixes, 620,000 rounds of ammo and $650,000 worth of parts during the 30-day rotation of NTC 20-02.
"The primary weakness of the enemy is its inability to sustain a large force over the long-term," said Capt. Preston Quinn, the squadron intelligence officer. "Muleskinner squadron uses three-dimensional logistics support to restore combat power to the regiment, long outlasting the enemy force on the battlefield."
As wrenches turn, the fight continues on the battlefield creating casualties and loss of combat power. Medics and providers jump into action preparing Role II for incoming patients.
"Under this environment, we know that every second counts. This is the reason we train, not only to treat simulated casualties but real-world patients who are delivered to us as well," said Capt. Nathan Webster, Scalpel Troop executive officer.
From sprained ankles to diagnosing a case of Bell's Palsy, the medics take their mission seriously to get personnel back to their squadrons and back into the fight. Treating 586 notional casualties and 90 real-world injuries, the soldiers take pride in the contribution to the mission.
"After our rotation to Fort Irwin, Muleskinners squadron returned to Fort Hood as a more refined organization aware of our strengths and weaknesses," Quinn said. "At the heart of this lethal support element is a simple concept: Without logistics, nothing shoots. Without logistics, nothing moves. Without logistics, nothing communicates."