SALEM, Oregon – Over the past year, Soldiers of the Oregon National Guard have been tasked with multiple short suspense missions; often in support of pandemic response activities in civilian communities.
Typically, these assignments heavily rely on logistics and vehicle readiness to transport personnel and protective equipment when and where it’s needed throughout the state.
Similarly in 2020, the 1186th Military Police Company was dispatched for civil disturbance response and firefighting security checkpoint missions, again for which the ability to move out quickly with the right gear is the name of the game.
Sgt. Jessica Edwards has been serving as an automated logistical specialist in the ORARNG for over nine years. The job encompasses a variety of management and recordkeeping skills to ensure the fleet of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or “Humvees” as they’re commonly called, is ready to roll.
Edwards played a key role in preparing vehicles and commanders for State Active Duty missions over the past 12 months, including the recent civil disturbance call-up that required a response in less than 23 hours. Among her accomplishments is coordinating the processing of 50% of non-mission-capable vehicles to restore them “fully mission-capable” status.
Her diligence and work ethic have not gone unnoticed by supervisors.
“She is the most junior Soldier we've had in this position,” acknowledged Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ronald Higginbotham, Deputy Surface Maintenance Manager. “She jumps right in and is nose to the grindstone. She has been able to streamline much of this entire process.”
Higginbotham noted how the unit was shorthanded over the summer and Edwards stepped forward with her “no-fail attitude” to fill in the gaps.
“Getting the right equipment to the right people as quickly as possible is important to (mission accomplishment),” the CWO said. “She was taking on not only the administrative side of the job, but also doing some of the maintenance management with the vehicles. She’s just a wonderful person to have around.”
For the last two COVID-19 Task Forces – TF Assurance and TF Alliance – Edwards has been assisting supply sergeants with the resources they need.
“I am a full-time technician, so a lot of them come to me when they need help,” Edwards said. “I love my unit, so with all these important assignments coming in, I wanted to make sure everything was done properly.”
Accounting for mission-capable vehicles is demanding during ideal circumstances. Keeping them organized during a spike in domestic deployments, and when units are shorthanded, only compounds the challenge.
“(When) the brigade says, ‘We need to get so many vehicles up and running,’ I look at the numbers to see what work orders can be closed out and where the … (requirements) can be met,” she said.
If the organization is short on vehicles, Edwards will contact other units for support and get a sense of how quickly additional assets can be dispatched, which is critical to rapid mission launch.
“If we get a request for 32 vehicles, and we’ve got 24 that are ready, the brigade will take those numbers that I’ve allotted, then get the missing eight from another battalion. ...That’s a big part of my job; I get them the information they need to succeed.”
Like countless Soldiers across the Army, Edwards is coping with the added challenge of having to frequently telework because her children are doing virtual learning at home. Time at the armory is an “every-other-day thing,” but she and her Soldier husband make it work. Staff Sgt. Brian Edwards is a unit supply sergeant.
“Any parent in these COVID times can attest to how some days are just rough,” Edwards said with a resigned laugh. “You’re trying to do 8-hour days with people calling and your kids are screaming. I get up early (to) work. When it’s their nap time, I can get more done, and late in the evening my husband is home to help.”
The sense of determination that can be found in those words comes from a Soldier who began her career in the military on a good-natured dare. “I had a friend who said I wasn't strong enough to join the Army. I told him, ‘I bet you I can.' ...That was 9 years ago.”
The manner in which she has since served the National Guard is not lost on organization leaders and staff who depend on Edwards “all-in energy” and proactive can-do attitude.
“I am so impressed with this young leader and everything she has brought to the team,” offered Lt. Col. Tannis Mittelbach, Assistant Deputy Chief Staff - Logistics for the 821st Troop Command. “She will work on a moment's notice, come in early, stay late, and log extra time to get the mission complete.
“What she has done to get all of our vehicles and other data into the GCSS-Army system is impressive in itself,” the staff officer further noted.
Global Combat Support System-Army consists of two components. The first is an automated information section that serves as a logistics support system for joint transformation of Army Sustainment. The second provides a single source for data and business intelligence. GCSS-A supports a rapid force that can be calculated for battlefield functionals to include arming, fixing, fueling, sustaining and tactical logistics financial processes.
"It is critical for logistical readiness that equipment and maintenance schedules are loaded in the system of record (that tracks safety and full mission capability),” Mittelbach said. “(Sgt. Edwards) has trained all 821st commanders with their maintenance program. This has helped everyone as we have been tasked eight times in the last year for domestic operations. She’s really an impressive Soldier in every sense of the word.”