By Sgt. Timothy Book, 326th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment September 27, 2011
ZANZIBAR, Tanzania - Seventeen members of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Georgia Army National Guard, recently participated in Natural Fire 11, a bilateral, multinational exercise held in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
The 48 IBCT along with 325 members of the armed forces of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States trained side-by-side on the remote African island.
The aim of the exercise is to provide the participating countries with the skills to conduct peace support operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, counter-terrorism and counter-piracy. The contributions of the Georgia delegation include planning and executing the command and control operations for the multi-national exercise Natural Fire 1.
The tasks for the 48th IBCT began many months ago when they accepted the challenge of providing logistics, conducting all administration tasks for the exercise, and managing a continuous operation of the Tactical Operations Center for this island exercise.
"We were told we were selected to participate in NF11 during the final planning conference," Capt. Mariel C. Potts, the brigade S4 Logistics officer said.
The S4 Logistics cell was responsible for the planning phase of getting the 48th IBCT to Zanzibar. The challenge included securing contracts from outside venders to provide necessary services which would enable a safe, secure and smooth operation for all participants. Once contracts were established, the next task was to ensure the venders were in compliance and to continue to monitor their work.
The food, water and medical plans were in the planning process when our unit took over at the third and final planning conference held in May, according to Potts.
"There were things already in place. We were there to make sure the plan was followed through to completion - which we are doing and will complete," Potts said.
Planning for this event was not the normal two or three week training which a unit is required to perform every year for training requirements.
"It was very similar to a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, in that you have to follow overseas checklists, such as more thorough immunizations and training," Potts said.
"We had to ensure that all of our Soldiers passed their SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training, that they had a proper ISOPREP on record, and were current in the AT/FP (Anti-terrorism/Force protection) training, and other such administrative items. We conducted COR (Contracting Officer Representative) training, which most of our E-7s or higher above were asked to take," Potts explained.
The COR training teaches Soldiers how to work with outside vendors. "This helped us make sure the contracts were followed by the contractor, like the hotel for instance. We monitor our expectations and watch that they follow through with what they agreed to provide and perform," she said. "One of our primary missions in planning was to make sure (the Soldiers involved in the exercise) are taken care of here at the hotel." Now that the exercise has begun, Potts continues to monitor compliance with the existing contracts.
Training also included familiarizing Soldiers of the 48th IBCT with Africa.
"This is our first overseas training involving U.S. Army Africa, who is conducting the exercise and there was a little bit of a learning curve in this area," said Maj. Jay McNair, the brigade operations officer.
"We've been deployed to other theaters of operation, but we didn't know much about Africa, or specifically, Tanzania," said McNair.
"Part of our planning required our intelligence staff to develop a country brief," said McNair. "This included a threat analysis as well as an initial mission analysis. In the beginning we were also uncertain of what the intel requirement would be to support the mission. A lot of this didn't really get answered well until the final planning conference. That's when we learned that our primary role was to provide support as the operational support unit, or exercise support cell," McNair said.
"Logistically we had to determine all the things that would be needed," Potts said. "For example, we also planned for back-up generators, just in case something failed on site."
Planning also included the unforeseen. Items such as chemical latrines (porta-potties), to ensure that unanticipated problems could be dealt with, with little or no interruption might be needed at some point.
"We contacted local vendors to have all this in place. We had to think ahead. You can never plan enough for contingencies," said Potts.
Potts oversees compliance from the venders with the contracts. "All the little details like bottled water in the hotel rooms and netting around the beds had to be considered," she said. "The hotel was not used to dealing with contracts like this. They're used to four or five pages, ours was about 26 pages."
So far, the operation is running smoothly, with little problems, according to Potts who believes that the 48 IBCT was chosen for their operational skills and that it shows they can keep their focus on the primary mission.
Master Sgt. Chris Mullins, the brigade operations NCO, has been involved since the unit took over in May. According to Mullins, it isn't too unusual that the unit was tasked with this mission, but he was expecting that they would be helping to provide support under the direction of another element. They still fall under a higher element (being U.S. Army Africa) - this isn't their exercise, he said. The command and control part, administration, and logistics is the 48th responsibility.
Although the TOC isn't operational 24 hours, the logistics and administration does run all day and night.
"We constantly have people departing and arriving at the airport. Work shifts are set so that we are responding to those requirements," Mullins said. "We're available 24 hours for any other needs that may come up." During the hours that the CPX is operational, the TOC is also running reports and sending them up the chain of command, he said.
In addition to the designated tasks, it was important through the planning process to stay in constant communication with the U.S. Army Africa lead planner, Ralph Park who is stationed at the USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy. The 48th also had to coordinate with the U.S. Army Reserve 75th Division from California, the 339th Reserve Medical unit from Massachusetts, the Joint Visitor Bureau from the Utah Army National Guard, offices from the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti, the USARAF Chaplain's Unit Mission Training (UMT) program, the 326th MPAD from Pennsylvania, and multiple senior leaders and distinguished visitors.
"The biggest thing that was different, would be the amount of outside players that we had to bring together and coordinate with," said McNair.
Although for the 48th IBCT Brigade this mission is a first in Africa there is no doubt regarding the successful outcome of the exercise.
"We are a combat brigade. We're accustomed to moving large units around," said McNair. "We're used to operating a tactical operations center from the company level to brigade level, so what we've been asked to do is just part of our TOE requirement."
"Give us a challenge and we will succeed," said McNair. "We love this stuff."