88th BSB Course continues as mission transitions

By Special to the American Press

FORT POLK — The seeds of military logistics were sewn millennia ago when the Assyrians used their wits to suppress and overtake

their neighbors in the Fertile Crescent. Alexander the Great — who built on the legacy of his father, Philip II of Macedon

— conquered the ancient world with forward thinking and planning.

Throughout history, the art of military logistics was refined — and soldiers from Fort Polk continue to stay the course and

raise the standard.

Companies from the 1st Maneuver

Enhancement Brigade’s 88th Brigade Support Battalion: Headquarters,

Alpha and Bravo Companies,

the 41st Transportation Company and a signal team from the 337th

Signal Company, deployed to various training facilities across

the installation in preparation for the brigade’s transition from

homeland defense to wartime fighters June 15-20.

Currently 1st MEB is supporting the last leg of its Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive

Reactionary Force mission — a task they’ve held for more than two years. This mission, which provides national support to

communities struck by disaster, is slated to end in September.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey D. Witt, 88th BSB

commander, believes getting back to the basics will help prepare the

support battalion

for future missions. “It’s a learning process. Soldiers can’t go

through two years prepared to help in the U.S. and then go

right into the box with full-on warfare,” he said.

“We train on core tasks that support multiple missions whether we’re working on DCRF in Florida or in Afghanistan, it’s the

same mission. The only difference is in Afghanistan, we have to be able to defend ourselves, too.

“This exercise is a hybrid. It’s not DCRF-oriented, but we’re in the steps that build up to tactical preparedness so we’re

prepared to go anywhere and accomplish any mission.

“We’re focusing on basic tactical

skills like security and setting up, living, eating and performing

personal hygiene in the

field while surviving and supporting others from a field location

without buildings, a power grid, running water and everything

else that soldiers are used to in the base camps they operate in

on a normal basis.

“This field training exercise helps bridge the transition back to our wartime mission, which is to deploy and support the

brigade and a combat operation,” said Witt.

“Logistics units are very hard to take to the field because they always have customers,” Witt said. “We must maintain supply

operations even when we unplug from the garrison.”

As part of their training, soldiers worked June 15-16 to set up their sites so when the installation needed them Monday morning

the brigade was ready to support them.

Soldiers moved into a completely

austere location and established an ability to support others. “We

provided supplies, water,

maintenance, fuel, ammunitions and command and control from a spot

in the woods that didn’t have any other resources and were

completely self-sufficient,” he said.

The units supported installation

missions from the support battalion’s facilities that were relocated

into the training area.

Pushing soldiers from a field location in convoys to complete

missions added to the training experience and tested the soldiers’

readiness and tactical capabilities in multiple procedures, Witt

said.

“We completed all our regular missions from the site,” said Witt. “When we redeployed to the garrison after the field training

exercise, we immediately resumed customer support to the installation.

“This training exercise was designed to give soldiers confidence in their equipment and training to set up, live in and support

others from austere locations,” Witt said. “We exercised the vehicles that don’t necessarily get a lot of mileage during a

normal week, and the soldiers received a lot of hands-on training.

“The mechanics fixed the equipment in the field. The wreckers recovered trucks out of the mud. And we provided real-time support

that we usually perform in garrison,”?he said.

Temperatures reached heat index category five during the training exercise and provided another level of complexity.

“Everything is more complex when it’s

hot,” said Witt. “The first day, soldiers can muscle through because

they’re fully hydrated,

but if they can’t sustain hydration, they fall further and further

behind each day. What normally takes three hours takes

six because of the weather.”

Work and rest cycles flowed according

to the heat index. “When the heat category reaches four or five,

soldiers need more

time to rest — for every half hour of work they get 20 to 30

minutes of rest in the shade with water so that dehydration doesn’t

become an issue. It’s intense when it’s hot out,” Witt said.

No stone goes unturned as the soldiers

who completed the mission attended to minute details that affect

readiness, sustainability

and sufficiency.

“We train to a standard,” Witt said. “Until we reach the point of redeployment to the garrison, we continually improve the

standard.

“One of the standards is that the tactical operations center is fully wired in and secured. Soldiers set up wire until it

was time to go back,” Witt said.

Trash removal is also essential to the

mission. “We have to coordinate every minute detail of movement, said

Capt. Devanie

Johnson, 88th BSB battalion adjutant. “Even Soldiers who take care

of this aspect of the support brigade’s self-sufficiency

have to report to the tactical operations center when they’re

leaving and returning. It’s a lot to track.”