KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The first Remote Maintenance Distribution Cell-Ukraine began operation in south-eastern Poland to provide weapons and equipment assistance to Ukraine Armed Forces by Soldiers from 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion and 16th Sustainment Brigade in May 2022.
“We took this task very seriously because the success and lives of the Ukraine Armed Forces depended on the equipment we provided,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Charles Beeman, armament systems maintenance warrant officer, 16th SB. “We wanted to ensure we were giving our absolute best effort to supplement and enhance their maintenance capabilities."
The RDC-U transpired when 87th DSSB deployed to support UAF in March 2022. Within a month of their arrival, 87th CSSB conducted informal hands-on training for nine UAF artillery technicians with 18 retrograde M777 howitzers.
However, service tickets from UAF continued to flood in and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sun Kim, armament systems maintenance warrant officer, 87th DSSB, saw the need for more efficient maintenance support. When she noticed one service request pending for over two weeks, Kim asked herself, “how can we better support them?”
Her solution was hosting a video chat to immediately assist her counterparts. In May, Kim, two members from Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, two weapon experts and an interpreter used a cellphone to conduct the first telecommunication support channel to a UAF member.
“We were their only resource,” said Kim.
The 87th DSSB established a strong relationship with UAF through these chats.
“We were in it together,” said Kim. “I considered them my battle buddies.”
Kim said chats were open 24 hours for communication and eventually reached UAF on the front lines to immediately assist battle equipment malfunctions.
16th SB took over the RDC-U in October 2022 and is currently assisting in sustaining operations. Sgt. 1st Class Tracee Bowman, maintenance supervisor, 16th SB, was amazed by how fast the RDC-U evolved.
“It has developed to its present position by coordinating, adjusting and giving resources across a wide range of equipment, from massive combat platforms all the way down to individual weapons,” said Bowman.
Bowman, a mother, and wife, praises the teamwork at the RDC-U and the selfless service her Soldiers provided to work at all hours to quickly inspect, repair, and send items to Ukraine.
Like Kim, Bowman and Beeman communicated with forward UAF by video chat and relayed the urgency and impact of maintenance support to Soldiers conducting repairs on equipment. All three shared the graphic video footage with maintenance teams to convey the severity of the mission.
“The situation really made us think about the struggles they were enduring,” said Beeman.
Warrant Officer 1 David Hernandez, ground support equipment technician, 317th Support Maintenance Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, was honored to help Ukraine’s readiness by repairing and providing maintenance support for wheeled vehicles.
“I am proud of our accomplishment in revolutionizing support for our allied partners,” said Hernandez.
Originally from Butterfield, Minnesota, Hernandez rotated twice to the RDC-U in October and March 2023. He explained a vivid memory of receiving video footage from UAF with a destroyed vehicle and a request for a replacement. Upon receiving the replacement vehicle, he relayed the information back to UAF and witnessed the expression of relief and thankfulness from the UAF member. Hernandez felt an immediate connection to his partners and the fight they were supporting.
This was the case for most Service Members. When repairs were complete and equipment was back in the fight it triggered a sense of accomplishment and joy.
“They show a lot of gratitude for the support they get,” said Beeman. “We found ourselves deeply immersed in and attached to this mission. You really want to give them the best chance at success.”
Beeman joined the Army in 1999 and values military service and his career field. “We took on the mind set of what we would do in this situation if our lives depended on repairing this equipment,” said Beeman.
According to Bowman, the RDC-U gave Service Members a sense of purpose and “Being part of this mission was the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Soldiers providing remote maintenance to UAF forward troops to improve sustainment capabilities is one of the unlimited possibilities the Army offers allowing Soldiers the chance to a pursue their passions and explore new careers.
“This has been a rewarding experience that will continue to evolve and support Ukraine Armed Forces in defending their nation,” said Beeman.
The 21st Theater Sustainment Command executes mission command of operational sustainment across the European theater; conducts reception, staging, onward movement and integration; executes theater opening, theater distribution, and theater sustainment in support of U.S. European Command and NATO operations; and, as directed, executes joint security and support to U.S. Africa Command operations.
For more information about the 21st TSC visit https://www.21tsc.army.mil/