By Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Pat CaldwellAugust 25, 2011
The French Emperor who conquered much of Europe once said an army marches on its stomach. He was getting at a fundamental truism of war: Without a good supply line, any military force, is doomed.
VanDeWalle knows all about that axiom. He is very familiar with the complicated juggling act of moving a modern military force from one continent to another.
From shoelaces to boots, and from rifles to Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, VanDeWalle and his small supply team work to ensure everything a modern combat force needs to be successful is available when and where it is needed.
"I'm the logistical officer. I'm responsible for getting the 3-116th from La Grande, Ore., to Iraq and have them arrive with all of their equipment," he said.
Not a big deal, right? Just like a move back in the states. Pack everything up and put it in the family roadster and head out. Right? Well, not exactly.
Moving more than 500 Soldiers from point A to point B, VanDeWalle said is easy and difficult. There are triumphs along the way and mind boggling frustrations. The stakes are high, very high. If the 3rd Battalion reaches its destination without the right equipment, it is not simply a case of trying harder next time. Many lives may be at stake.
"Your job is never complete. You have many tasks that take you in many directions," he said. "It is a very important job. It doesn't have all the glory of some jobs, but it keeps us afloat."
"Keeping things afloat" for VanDeWalle and his supply team, consisting of one sergeant first class and two staff sergeants, means constant attention to detail over an array of issues.
"There is always equipment to be replaced, or a Soldier needs a new pair of boots," he said.
After the 3rd Battalion reached Iraq and began its convoy escort mission, it would be easy to imagine VanDeWalle and his team taking a long break. That didn't happen.
In fact, VanDeWalle said, as soon as the battalion was on the ground in Iraq, he and his team started to plan for the return to the United States. That job, he said, isn't any easier than the task of planning the battalion's deployment to the Middle East.
"Getting home is just as complex," he said.
While practicing his logistical craft for the 3rd Battalion, VanDeWalle remains in sharp focus, he is also involved in the massive operation to secure the responsible reposturing of American military elements from Iraq.
Turning in buildings and turning in excess equipment are part of VanDeWalle's responsibilities. The critical component to the reposturing mission, he said, is the manner in which it is performed.
"We want to do it in a respectful way. Not leave behind dilapidated buildings," he said.
VanDeWalle said the journey home will be a welcome one. VanDeWalle, who deployed and served as a platoon leader in Iraq for the 3rd Battalion in 2004, said he is pleased to be part of the Snake River Regiment.
"I'm very impressed with the 3-116th, on how well we run our organization. That's hard to compare back home but when you are in the fight it makes you proud to part of the battalion," he said.