WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii – Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division recently returned home after a one-month deployment to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Training deployments such as this allow the unit to not only practice their readiness, but the readiness of supporting commands as well.
“The 402nd Army Field Support Battalion-Hawaii took part in every aspect of the recent JRTC deployment,” said Lt. Col. Benjamin Kilgore, commander of the battalion. “Our Division Logistics Support Element executed a no-notice deployment on Aug. 17 to integrate with joint force capabilities and assess the readiness of the United States Army-Hawaii deployment infrastructure.”
The logistical plans required to deploy 5,000 troops took months of planning and coordination between multiple organizations. An Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise, or EDRE, allows the AFSBn to assess various nodes and identify gaps with regard to power projection platform and Mobilization Force Generation Installation requirements.
“AFSBn-Hawaii spent roughly 120 days preparing the deployment of equipment for the 2IBCT’s deployment to JRTC,” said Mel Wright, a member of the 402nd’s logistics readiness team. However, in response to the EDRE, the transportation office had to increase their ability to withstand increased volume.
“In all, the brigade ended up taking 80% of their equipment,” said Kilgore.
In order to prepare all necessary equipment, the battalion’s Installation Transportation Office brought together nine different entities, including the 599th Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, and synchronized every effort, ensuring all requirements and mandates were observed. The 402nd provided the deploying unit oversight and expertise during the pre-deployment and actual Multifunctional Deployment Facility (MDF) operations, including training units to certify that all containers and vehicles were properly labeled and secured in order to meet pre-determined mandates and standards.
The 402nd then facilitated the interaction between Pearl Harbor and the deploying unit by ensuring the deploying and supporting unit provided the required support to accomplish vessel upload.
In all, the 402nd AFSBn-Hawaii oversaw the preparation of 2,062 total pieces of equipment, including rolling stock, containers and aircraft, processing over 150 pieces of equipment each day.
“I’m proud to say our team’s effort resulted in a decrease of 15% less frustrated cargo – equipment or supplies that were not properly processed prior to being accepted at the port,” said Kilgore.
The 599th Transportation Brigade coordinated the upload of the equipment on two U.S. Navy vessels, the USNS Brittin and USNS Fisher. The vessels were on their way after a week in port at Pearl Harbor.
“Once the equipment is on its way, we shift our focus to the flight operation,” Wright said.
The 402nd’s transportation office oversaw 19 flight operations over the course of almost two weeks, but it’s not as simple as Soldiers showing up at the airport two hours before their flight.
“We actually start the process five hours before the plane is set to take off,” said Lynette Reyes, a member of the transportation office with 39 years of logistics experience. “It’ll cost $1 million if we miss the flight.”
All bags must be inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure no fruits, vegetables, or any other plant material is transferred out of Hawaii.
Once the USDA clears the bags, they are loaded into trucks and driven over scales to get an accurate weight. The 402nd must provide the team at Hickam Airfield the total weight that will be on the plane, people included.
“It is quite a process, which is why we start so early prior to flight time,” said Reyes. “COVID has added to this. All Soldiers must have their temperature taken before they get on the bus, and then again before they get on the plane.”
While the transportation office sent Soldiers to Fort Polk, the 402nd’s Division Logistics Support Element deployed 36 personnel from across the enterprise.
“Army Sustainment Command, Communications and Electronics Command, Aviation and Missile Command, Joint Munitions Command, and Tank-automotive and Armaments Command all had representatives deploy to JRTC,” said Kilgore.
While at JRTC, the battalion’s subject matter experts supported the expediting of over 800 requisitions to ensure the readiness of the force during the JRTC rotation.
Just over one month after facilitating the deployment to Fort Polk, the 402nd AFSBn-Hawaii Transportation Division personnel received 2IBCT, 25th ID Soldiers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“The 402nd’s participation in exercises such as these is paramount,” says Kilgore. “We are responsible for leading, managing and overseeing the deployment of units. Large-scale exercises allow us to be mission-ready by ensuring installation readiness to support force mobilization, power projection and the synchronization and integration of Army Material Command capabilities in Hawaii and the greater Indo-Pacific region.”
To learn more about the Joint Readiness Training Center, visit https://home.army.mil/polk/.
To learn more about the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, visit https://www.facebook.com/2IBCTWarriors.