The mission never stops for the Army Materiel Command enterprise. Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the organization is working with Army Reserve and Army National Guard (ARNG) units to provide real-world missions that support Army readiness.
Operation Patriot Press, an AMC initiative that links Reserve and National Guard units to real-world missions for annual training, got off to a slow start this year when COVID-19 interrupted many of the planned projects.
“This year is different than what we have experienced in the past,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Ellis, AMC assistant deputy to the commanding general for National Guard affairs. “We are maneuvering during a time when we have had to ask the question, ‘How do we operate in a COVID-19 environment under Operation Patriot Press?”’
While the number of participating units dropped from 39 to five, missions are still being successfully completed under OPP, including two Joint Munitions Command missions where the 1742nd Transportation Company, South Dakota ARNG, concluded a storage realignment mission during the first two weeks of March. Most recently, the 118th Transportation Company, Utah ARNG, at Tooele Army Depot finished a storage reform mission August 3-7.
As of now, two Army Sustainment Command missions are slated to occur in September: one at West Point, New York, and a second at the Port of Charleston, South Carolina.
“Because of the flexibility units have in working with AMC, Soldiers can accomplish the training they want and walk away feeling satisfied that they used technical skills for a meaningful, real-world mission,” said Ellis.
That was the case with the 118th Transportation Company, which was the first National Guard unit to execute an OPP mission under a COVID-19 environment, effectively moving more than 3.6 million pounds of munitions 5,100 miles over a five-day period.
“The repetitive nature of how we conduct operations and utilize readiness to execute something that has real-world impact for the warfighter reminds our Soldiers why they joined the military in the first place,” said 118th Transportation Company Commander Cpt. Brian Sorensen.
He explained that his team took necessary precautions to reduce risk and preserve the force during the mission.
“Prior to training, Soldiers were screened and had their temperature checked several times a day. Social distancing and mask wear was required,” said Sorensen.
Due to extreme heat conditions in Utah, Soldiers used wet bulbs, which allowed them to monitor their work/rest cycle based on the outside temperature and workload. Preventative measures were also implemented in the sleeping quarters. Beds were separated 13 feet apart and cooling mechanisms were provided for Soldiers.
For Sorensen, he said it was important for him to check on the morale of his unit and build their confidence.
“I checked in on Soldiers and talked to them individually,” he said. “We also conducted weekly check-ins with the Soldiers and their families to determine their health status.”
Sorensen credited the success of the mission to both the AMC team in the Reserve Component Mission Support Office and Utah National Guard team.
The AMC Reserve Component Mission Support Office is only a six person team, but Ellis said they are essential in making OPP a success.
“Operation Patriot Press is a fantastic training opportunity for Reserve and National Guard units,” said Ellis. “Part of what Lt. Col. Jessica R Dixon, Maj. Patrick Martel and Cpt. Hohm in the AMC Reserve Component Mission Support office do is help find guard and reserve units that are suited for missions and help link them with AMC and its major subordinate commands.”
Looking to the future, Ellis said he hopes to see Lt. Col. Dixon, the only reservist in the office, expand OPP on the reserve side and find more opportunities for the MSCs.
“I think we can heavily utilize guard and reserve maintenance units to help with Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and Army Sustainment Command missions, whether that is working with Army Prepositioned Stocks of equipment or training fleets around the nation; or if it is providing security at ports or medical logistics support, I hope to see us doing more missions,” he said.
Ellis said he considers 2020 to be the year of the guard.
“If you think about the depth and breadth of the things the guard has done this year, it is serving in combat locations, supporting combatant commanders around the world, helping states with testing and distributing personal protective equipment, and helping with food distribution as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19; the guard is always ready, always there,” he said. “These Guard and Reserve Soldiers are able to do what they do because AMC readies them with the equipment that allows them to train and operate. It is an unsung positive aspect of what we do in maintaining military readiness.”