FORT RILEY, Kansas - U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, spent the past month in Camp Atterbury, Indiana, providing mission command support for Operation Guardian Response, a field training exercise that validates Army units on their ability to assist the Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) in the event of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) catastrophe.
Active duty Army Soldiers, National Guardsmen, and Army Reservists came from across the country to participate in the exercise held primarily at the Muscatatuk Urban Training Center, under the 78th Training Division, where elaborate training grounds have been fabricated to include entire cement buildings reduced to rubble, train cars pulled off tracks, and suburban homes flooded up to their roofs; all in an effort to make the venues and civilian role-players seem as realistic as possible.
The 1st Sustainment Brigade provided support for the entire operation by tracking each participating Soldier ensuring accountability for personnel arriving and departing, coordinating the flow of equipment and fuel, and maintaining the well-being of participants by keeping them well-fed, hydrated, and comfortably housed.
“We are ensuring that supplies, personnel, and equipment go to the right place at the right time so that the Soldiers here can effectively train,” said U.S. Army Col. Brian Olson, commander of the 1st Sustainment Brigade. “1st Sustainment Brigade has been allocated to support U.S. Army Northern Command for 18-months, which is a normal rotation for sustainment brigades during which the unit is on-call to deliver support to civil authorities in case of an emergency. This exercise allows these DSCA allocated forces to train on multiple forms of disaster.”
Guaranteeing the success of a major operation through the coordination and cooperation of training and enabling units from different sustainment components of the U.S. Army, who have never worked together before, is no easy feat. The 1st Sustainment Brigade team worked tirelessly to forge a cohesive team with the common goal of providing sustainment support to enable the training.
With such a small team to provide mission command support, many Soldiers have had to take on roles larger than themselves or the rank they wear.
“I provide services like in-processing, personnel status, and accountability,” said U.S. Army Spc. Mariah Snowden, a human resources specialist for the Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade. “Here in Indiana, I sit in at the 78th Training Division personnel meetings to report and synchronize the information I deal with on a daily basis. There is a lot of responsibility involved. From this experience, I’ve learned to take more initiative. When I first started here, I was nervous in those meetings because the numbers I presented had to be accurate so the Soldiers received the right amount of supplies, it was nerve-wracking. But now I’ve built up my confidence knowing I’m going to do the best I can and that my team is behind me.”
Though just a team of 18 Soldiers, the 1st Sustainment Brigade enabled 3,828 Soldiers across 78 units to participate in the exercise. They ensured 107,000 gallons of fuel were distributed and made available to the 1,497 pieces of rolling stock that came through the Camp Atterbury Central Receiving and Shipping Point (CRSP). Additionally, the sustainment team worked with contractors to provide 58,987 meals to the Soldiers during their time in Indiana.
“The team we have here is very unique,” said U.S. Army Cpt. John Beck, the 1st Sustainment Brigade Assistant Operations Officer. “It’s a small element made up from the brigade staff that we had available with all the DSCA and Forward Assessment and Sustainment Teams we have supporting COVID-19 relief across the country. With that in mind, we had to call on Soldiers to fill roles at a higher position than they would typically be required to fill. Even as an ad hoc team, our Soldiers have performed above expectation to ensure the success of the mission here. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”