By Spc. Michael Blalack, 1/25 SBCT PAOJanuary 31, 2011
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - U.S. Soldiers may be some of the best trained in the world, but they still need their vehicles and equipment, as well as an occasional meal, to accomplish their mission.
There is a reason Washington put Nathaniel Greene, possibly the most brilliant general of America's war for independence, in charge of logistics.
Getting supplies and equipment where they need to be can sometimes be more important than victories on the battlefield.
Even though planes are used for troops and some of their gear, trains and ships are still the way most military equipment moves. The methods of tracking and accountability have evolved however, and even though there is still a formidable stack of papers involved in the movement of each piece of equipment, every vehicle and container has a radio frequency identification, or RFI, tag to track its movement en route.
Despite the advances in technology, these tags don't attach themselves.
"There are 11 civilians, plus the forklift driver," says Randy Havens, a deployment specialist for the directorate of logistics, "as well as the brigade mobility team, and a movement team from each battalion."
The mobility team has been sometimes working 16- to 18-hour days, and will continue this pace until the brigade is in country and all equipment unloaded and accounted for, according to Sgt. 1st Class April Letourneau, mobility sergeant for the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
"There's so much that goes into mobilizing a large unit that few people understand just how massive a project it is," she says. "Most people only see their small part of it, but there are so many moving parts that all have to come together just right."
All vehicles and containers have to be weighed and measured, cleaned and inspected, marked and painted.
"We started the process of getting 1-25th SBCT ready to deploy at least six months ago," says James Wells, a transportation assistant for the Directorate of Logistics said.
"There's a 180-day window, a 90-day window, a 45-day window, and so on,"
says Randy Havens, a deployment specialist for the DOL, "and there are different stages and steps for each of those. It takes a long time, and a massive number of people working like crazy, to get all this stuff moved from point A to point B and then to points C and beyond, and eventually back to point A."
"The rear detachment has been incredibly helpful getting things ready to go for this deployment," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott Messenger, mobility officer for 1-25th SBCT.
"They've really been working hard marking containers, painting bumper numbers, and getting vehicles down to the railhead. They were working long days down here while everyone was on Christmas leave. They deserve a lot of credit for how much work they've done."
But even with all the work that has gone into getting the unit ready for deployment there's still more to be done.
Of the brigade's approximately 850 vehicles and 770 containers that are going to National Training Center, about half are still being processed.
"And there are always changes right up to the last minute," says Letourneau.
"We've actually had to pull stuff off the ship and reconfigure the load at the port. All we can do is surf the wave of changes and try not to get caught in the curl."