By Sgt. John DedmanApril 5, 2011
CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT - Kuwait has not been known by most Soldiers who have deployed to be the center of the action. Lt. Col. Marvin Thornton, of the 1st Sustainment Brigade's Special Troops Battalion from Fort Riley, Kan. would set the record straight with Kuwait and its current tasking. Now the mission, in large part, is the responsible drawdown out of Iraq. Kuwait's logistical mission has always been important, but not central to the primary action like it has become today. The mission handed off to 1st STB changed radically and quickly because the drawdown is performed in phases. Each phase has differing requirements and much of his mission consisted primarily of the activities of the phase he moved into shortly after taking over. Now Thornton is about to transfer authority to Lt. Col. Steven Barney of Special Troops Battalion, 230th Sustainment Brigade out of Chattanooga, Tenn. Before Thornton moves back to Fort Riley, Kan., he said to Barney, "Be flexible and adapt to the situation." An example of flexibility is the battalion S3 of 1st STB, Capt. Sandra Brown. She was initially to be the battalion logistics officer but was place in operations to be the S3. Brown stated, "I was enlightened that S3 truly is the center of things." The operation continues to progress and the next phase is about to begin, so Thornton's advice will likely be the order of the day. Working closely with each other, Thornton and Barney discussed several challenges a STB is likely to encounter within Kuwait. More often than not, communication with battalion assests was a big problem. With the country being about the size of New Jersey, it made communication with the outlying elements difficult. The teams within the 1st STB remained flexible and found new ways to communicate, including using assets from other military branches. Thornton also noted the non-commissioned officers, or NCO's with those outlying groups functioned at a much higher level than expected from a normal garrison environment. In most cases, the NCO was the senior ranking individual at a site and had to make command decisions on critical tasks. Maj. William Lamar of 230th STB stated that his concern that the greatest challenge would likely be learning the roles and responsibilities of subordinate units and the impact they will have on the mission. This is likely to be a challenge as the units are not all located in one place. The area served by the 230th Sustainment Brigade is broad, with elements in Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar and Iraq and communications will have to be constant and clear to successfully manage day to day operations. Command Sgt. Maj. Clay Massengale points out that, "In an operation like this, fighting complacency will be a challenge. Operations will become routine and that can be a dangerous time," said Massengale. Sustainment brigades are not in the combat areas, but they are crucial as they must be vigilant to ensure whatever the combat arms Soldier needs, he has. Massengale continued that "the communal living quarters for soldiers operating here at Camp Arifjan will present its own unique challenges." When asked if his predecessor set the conditions for his success, Lamar said, "Absolutely! This has been the best and the smoothest transition and I've been through a few." Massengale felt the same about his counterpart saying, "He gave me a good look of the day to day operations in battalion operations." All in all, the outlook is upbeat. The preparation provided to each of the staff during the transition by their counterparts has left the 230th staff feeling more confident in taking over such a significant operation. This transfer of authority is significant as this mission is directly involved in the historic mission of the complete drawdown of U.S. Forces in Iraq and the necessity of a responsible withdraw to ease the completion of the transition from the U.S. military back to the Iraqi people is crucial.