FLORENCE, Ariz. – Soldiers from the Arizona Army National Guard’s 222nd Transportation Company hauled about 2 million pounds of munitions over 5,100 miles of desert, mountains and plains to support the U.S. Army’s Operation Patriot Press.
The 222nd rolled out of Florence May 6 with 40 shipping containers of heavy artillery rounds and munitions from the Tooele Army Depot, Utah, and headed east to the Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky.
The 222nd specializes in moving containerized, non-containerized, palletized dry and refrigerated cargo and bulk water products. Hauling heavy munitions thousands of miles from one depot to another, then conducting loading, staging and delivery operations is a different challenge.
“When combined with different asphalt surfaces, altitudes, and fluctuating temperatures from triple digits to near freezing, making operational changes can become more complex. Those were great conditions for some quality, real-world training for drivers,” said Capt. Alexander Neighbors, company commander.
“On a tactical level, this mission was significant because it offered opportunities for our drivers to actually experience different road conditions,” Neighbors said. “We drove from low-level, sea-level locations through mountains, snowfall and thunderstorms in the Midwest. Some of it was severe weather. … We not only had to worry about, ‘Hey, please, lightning don’t strike the cargo,’ but also the different elements of traffic.”
Operation Patriot Press 2022 is an annual training event to enhance military logistical readiness and integrate U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard units for real-world missions during their annual training.
The operation was initiated by the U.S. Army Materiel Command to support Joint Munitions Command, headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.
The 222nd Soldiers traveled through 10 states over 13 days.
“They are much more proficient and tactically inclined based off this mission and how many hours they logged behind the wheel,” Neighbors said. “This was definitely an eye-opener for our junior Soldiers. The noncommissioned officers learned a lot about themselves, too.”
Operation Patriot Press benefits participating individual units, the U.S. Army Materiel Command and subordinate Joint Munitions Command. This year alone, the Arizona National Guard saved the U.S. Department of Defense more than $2.4 million during Operation Patriot Press. AMC appreciated the cost savings.
“They actually got us together at the end of the load and the director spoke to the entire unit explaining AMC’s struggles with getting hazardous cargo moved across the country,” Neighbors said. “AMC said they wished they could just pick up a phone in two weeks and ask us to show back up because we did such a good job.”
The operation also was an opportunity to engage and inform the public. National Guard transportation assets deliver food and supplies in times of need, but their main role is to serve as the primary combat reserve for the U.S. Army.
Staff Sgt. Ethan T. Kasun said hauling hazardous cargo was excellent preparation for junior troops.
“We had 42 vehicles loaded with hazardous cargo on each trailer,” said Kasun, who served as a truck commander during the mission.
Kasun also developed one of his junior Soldiers, Spc. Jeremiah Reyes, a motor transport operator. It was his first time “putting the hammer down” across three time zones.
“You get to experience the beautiful views of going through and between mountains and crossing different states,” Reyes said. “Being able to say that I went across country hauling [hazardous materials] and doing it for the U.S. Army … that’s a really good memory that I’ll tell my daughter later on when she grows up.”
The convoy had its share of blown tires, but no major mechanical issues. Like a rolling pit stop, they had the tools and resources to sustain themselves on the mission.
“Civilian drivers of semitractor-trailers just get amazed when we pass by and realize we’re doing the exact same thing they’re doing,” Reyes said.
Neighbors said many drivers from the 222nd have commercial driver’s licenses and experience as commercial truckers.
“Having those personnel be part of this team has been a huge, huge benefit, because they can bestow their knowledge upon the junior enlisted,” said Neighbors.