FORT HOOD, Texas - While many times it is a thankless job that occurs away from the public eye, no operation, whether military or civilian, can succeed without a successful supply and distribution system to keep it running.

For the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, this essential mission is performed by the Soldiers of the Supply Support Activity (SSA), which is part of Company A, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, and according to the SSA's Accountable Officer, Warrant Officer Brian Geschke, no piece of equipment, no matter how big or small, arrives to the brigade without first going through his Soldiers.

"We provide logistical support for 2nd Brigade. Every part they order from nut and bolt -- up to engine for a vehicle, we are the distribution center for 2nd Brigade," the Brunswick, Ohio native explained. "So everything that they order, it goes through us and we pull it and ship it to the customer."

After returning from Iraq earlier this year, Geschke said that he thought his Soldiers would benefit from seeing how their job is performed by a civilian corporation, and after months of locating a company with a distribution center within a reasonable distance and willing to help, this idea came to fruition when he and his Soldiers toured the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in New Braunfels, Texas June 3.

This was a rare opportunity for the Soldiers, as Wal-Mart's distribution centers are usually closed to the public, but after talks between the two parties, an exception was made.

"We're very honored to have the Black Jack Brigade from Fort Hood come and tour our facility. We currently have 3,000 associates serving our country nationally." Jeremy Gaytan, an Operations Manager at the distribution center, said, adding, "It's an honor to host these service men and women and share with them how we service the community. In our small way, it helps give back to those that are serving for our freedom and our country."

The Soldiers spent nearly three hours at the distribution center, during which time they were provided with an overview of the center's operations, as well as a tour of all the different parts of the center from receiving to order-fill and shipping.

"Both operations, surprisingly, were very similar," Geschke said. "A lot of the same techniques and tactics that we use, they use in this facility too. They have very similar classifications of sections in the warehouse. They have a storage section, an issue section. They have the shipping and receiving section. Every function they do here, we do for the military."

Spc. Charles Ward, who works as an automated logistical specialist, said that while most of the basics of the distribution process were the same, there were some notable differences - most obviously the sheer difference in size.

"I didn't think that it would be quite as large as it is. I was expecting something that was half or even a fourth the size of what it is - this actually put me back," Ward, originally from Rochester, Minn., said of the facility, which is over 1.2 million square feet, has over 20 miles of conveyer belts and services 89 Wal-Mart stores in Texas.

Another difference that both Ward and Geschke said they would like to be able to implement into their own operation is the amount of automation used throughout the distribution process.

"We do more manual operations, and they have more actual mechanical," Ward explained. "Their receiving section for instance, they have the conveyer belts that actually move everything to the different distribution centers within the warehouse, where as we have to physically carry and manhandle all parts."

Geschke said that by having his Soldiers tour the Wal-Mart distribution center he not only wanted them to see how their job's performed in the civilian sector, but was also hoping that they would to find ways to increase their own capabilities and improve the execution of their mission.

"A lot of the things that the tour guides would say would sort of set off the light bulb, to say, 'hey we do that,' maybe a little bit differently, but I think it helped them relate to what goes on in here to what we do," Geschke said. "They definitely had some good tools that we can take back with us."