JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq, July 19, 2011 -- A select group of Soldiers from the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, traveled to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, July 10, 2011, to establish mission capability for the 310th ESC there to facilitate the continuing re-posturing of forces from Iraq.

This advance party of more than 30 soldiers will secure work and living space and the full range of communication capabilities to support an ongoing transfer of personnel and equipment from Joint Base Balad, Iraq, to Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

“This is a good mission, because there is nothing simple about it and nothing will stay the same,” said 1st Lt. Thomas Raterman, executive officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 310th ESC, and a Columbus, Ohio, native. “Complacency, within our command, doesn’t exist, because it can’t exist. Everything is changing constantly.”

Throughout the course of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, units deployed to Iraq have been building infrastructure and sustaining the presence of U.S. forces. It falls to the 310th ESC, however, to begin the historic process of disassembling the infrastructure and retrograding troops from Iraq into Kuwait.

“This mission has never been done before in Iraq,” said Raterman. “Everything is a learning experience, [and] everything we do, it’s the first time we’ve done it.”

The advance party has the responsibility of establishing everything the 310th needs to fully run its operations in Kuwait. The operations will continue on JBB and will eventually continue solely from Camp Buehring.

“The challenge is not having two different missions from two different places. The challenge is having two different places focus on the same mission,” said Raterman. “It’s not split operations. It’s dual operations.”

The 310th ESC’s operations in Kuwait will progress through three stages of capability: communication, functionality and the main base of operation. Establishing effective communication via NIPR and SIPR telephone and internet lines is the biggest priority for the first week the advance party is here.

“We have a strong G6 section working for us here,” said Raterman. “Everything else is an issue, but we can’t function without the computers.”

He added that G6, or the information technology section, is heavily represented in the advance party because of the importance and relative difficulty of achieving network connectivity.

“If we threw something together and the network connection wasn’t designed properly or the links weren’t designed properly, you run into a problem where if you hook a computer to it, it drops off the network and then that person can’t do their job,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Cluts, senior information specialist with the 310th ESC, and a Payne, Ohio, native.

“Our goal is to set it up right, so it lasts a long time,” he said.

Another main part of being mission-capable in communications is maintaining the security of an increased level of sensitive communication across national boundaries.

“No matter where you are, we have to make sure everything is secure and protected at all times,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Stopyra, the senior intelligence analyst and network security non-commissioned officer in charge for the 310th ESC and a Las Cruces, N.M., native.

Four large tents comprise the workspace for 310th ESC soldiers at Buehring: the Joint Operations Center, the Fusion Cell, the Administration and Logistics Operation Center and the 53rd Movement Control Battalion headquarters.

The Fusion Cell is headquarters for Support Operations, the biggest piece of a sustainment command, according to Master Sgt. John Robinson, Support Operations mobility non-commissioned officer in charge and a Prairie, Miss., native. The Fusion Cell accommodates mobility, ammunition, maintenance and supply sections of the SPO to facilitate close cooperation among them.

“I’m here to make sure the fusion cell gets set up for the SPO so when they come down, they can make sure the force is being sustained,” he said.

Part of the challenge of this mission is the inherent conflict between the need to sustain U.S. soldiers in Iraq until the end and the need to constantly be reposturing personnel and materials out of Iraq.

“We’re the first unit to see the problems, the situations, the obstacles, that every other unit coming here will have to face,” said Raterman. “If it affects me, it’s probably going to affect everyone else.”
Raterman said the constant changes can disarrange months-old plans in an instant and that flexibility is among the most important qualities he needs in his soldiers to make this transition work. He said it was wise to be here in advance to deal with the unexpected.

“A unit might come here, fall under our command, and still fall under [United States Forces-Iraq], and be living on someone else’s base,” he said. “There may be many commands to fall under, but who is really responsible for getting the soldiers a place to sleep?”

Establishing clear lines of authority and clarifying areas of responsibility is a top priority for the advance party as they establish relationships with the key players outside the 310th ESC.

Despite, and perhaps because of, the challenges they face, leaders in every section of the 310th ESC advance party expressed confidence they will be mission-capable within their deadlines.

“It’s amazing to see how flexible everyone is in their missions, and they’re still able to overcome and achieve it,” said Raterman.

“The group of soldiers they sent down is motivated, hard-working - they might not work in SPO, but they’ve got the right attitude,” said Robinson.

While they work hard setting up the tents, laying wires, gathering supplies and establishing relationships with new units, soldiers of the 310th ESC’s advance party in Kuwait know what they do now will have an impact on the future of the Army.

Raterman said that what the 310th ESC is doing to prepare dual-base operations will have a lasting effect on contingency operations of the present and future. Units will learn from what the 310th ESC is doing and will use the process as a guide for future retrograde operations.