By 1Lt. John LanzafameNovember 28, 2012
Fort Bragg, NC-- In late Oct. 2012, Hurricane Sandy, a "once-in-a-100 years" storm ripped through the mid-Atlantic States, leaving behind it a path of death and destruction. Coastal areas were flooded, millions were without power, and thousands were homeless. On 4 Nov., the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, under the command of Col. Christopher Sharpsten, received notification from XVIII Airborne Corps that it was to provide sustainment mission command for a logistics task force in support of the Hurricane Sandy NORTHCOM Response Force.
This is the type of mission the Brigade is equipped and trained to perform. It is expected to provide expeditionary sustainment, rapid provision of logistics, and personnel services necessary to maintain and prolong operations until successful mission completion.
The success of this type of mission is dependent upon exercising a style of leadership that empowers leadership through the ranks to be proactive and decisive when faced with a unique and peculiar challenge presented by such a destructive force as Hurricane Sandy. The fact that the Brigade was on the ground in New Jersey with a functional Mission Command Center (MCC) in 48 hours after notification is testament to the effectiveness of that style of leadership.
The Brigade staff clearly demonstrated its responsiveness and ability to task-organize as it began to translate the intentions of command into actions in the early morning hours of Nov. 5th. The staff decided the Brigade would deploy 83 key personnel and equipment by four modes of transportation: military air, bus, line haul, and tactical convoy.
Accomplishing the difficult task required audacious leadership and a collaborative effort from junior and senior leaders from the company level up. These leaders' ability to task-organize and delegate responsibilities allowed the Bde. to simultaneously perform the numerous critical tasks required to out-load the deploying personnel.
These tasks included manifesting personnel, coordination for line haul trucks and bus support for ground movement, coordination for air support, development of load plans and their execution, identifying all necessary liaison officers, and conducting a communications exercise (COMMEX) to establish the primary, alternate, contingency, emergency (PACE) communication plan.
An extraordinary effort was put forth by Bde. adjutant, Maj. Batina Church and the Bde. human resources (S1) staff. As a result, manifesting began within three hours of notification. The torch party, made up of 23 personnel, was able to deploy by bus within 12 hours of notification. The tactical convoy, consisting of 11 personnel and five vehicles, deployed within 18 hours, and the main body deployed by bus and air within 24 hours of notification. The flawless execution of a well-organized and executed out-load plan enabled the Bde. to establish the command center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL), N.J. immediately upon arrival.
"During a real world expeditionary contingency, it is imperative that we work as a team," said Bde. Unit Movement Officer (UMO), 1st Lt. William Cunningham. "I felt comfortable empowering my subordinates to get the job done. It's the culture we live by in this brigade. Out-load is what this brigade does best; everyone understood their responsibilities and worked diligently to successfully deploy the Bde.'s Mission Command Center."
The 82nd Special Troops Battalion (STB) plans and operations (S3) shop successfully coordinated a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to transport mission-essential communication equipment from the 178th Signal Company, 15.5 short tons of tactical equipment, and 16 personnel. They built the Unit Deployment List (UDL) for the line hauls, developed the air load plans, and coordinated the buses to push out the main body of personnel. This was all accomplished within a 24-hour timeline.
As the Brigade staff continued to develop and refine the out-load execution plan, the Battalions and Companies executed their respective action plans. Before 9 a.m., 5 Nov., the 189th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), under the command of Lieutenant Col. Theodore White, was tasked to convoy mission essential communication equipment. White's team had already completed their pre-combat checks and inspections, identified their drivers, and were ready to load three Palletized Loading System (PLS) trucks.
The convoy would consist of five vehicles, the PLS trucks from the 189th CSSB, one heavy expanded mobility tactical truck (HEMTT) wrecker, and one HMMWV from the 82nd STB. 189th CSSB proved their motto, "First in Maintenance," to be appropriate.
The military vehicular convoy, traversing from Ft. Bragg, N.C. to JB MDL, a distance of more than 550 miles, successfully delivered the vital communications equipment without a single maintenance issue. This allowed the brigade to establish critical communication in their MCC (forward) in a perfunctory and timely manner. The leadership of the 189th CSSB recognized that success lies in the preparation of assets assigned to it for any expeditionary contingency. Maintaining a high readiness state at all times is imperative for the overall success of the Bde.'s mission.
With audacious leadership and a rigorous training regimen that drives excellence in performance, the Bde. has shown its ability to expeditiously deploy assets, meet any contingency, anytime, anywhere, in support of military action, or in support of humanitarian relief, as was the case with the Hurricane Sandy disaster response effort.