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Division West trains 135th ESC for Afghanistan
By Sgt. James Burroughs, 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Public Affairs
Dec 7, 2009 - 5:41:06 PM
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Brig. Gen. Reynold Hoover, commander of the 135th ESC, meets with Afghan nationals who are role playing as local dignitaries and an interpreturer during the MRX at Ft. Hood.
FORT HOOD, Texas - With the Commander in Chief sending more troops to Afghanistan, First Army Division West grabbed the reins to prepare the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command to support that influx of warfighters.

There was far more to do at Fort Hood than insuring each Soldier met the medical, legal and administrative requirements for deployment. More than 400 Soldiers from the First Army Division West and 1st Theater Sustainment Command had the responsibility to help the 135th ESC get ready for the real-world challenges of supporting all servicemembers' logistical needs in Afghanistan.

Expecting to be supporting more than 60,000 troops in the country, the unit's mission has been greatly expanded with the announcement it would have to plan for more than 30,000 additional troops during the tour.

"This training is extremely important," said Lt. Col Kenneth Crenshaw, operations plans and exercises, First Army Division West. "It is a culmination point. We make sure they get all the training they couldn't get pre-mobilization. We're going to make them work non-stop, 24-7. We have the responsibility to provide the highest quality training so their leaders can bring them home alive."

"The centerpiece of our training was a huge mobilization readiness exercise," said Brig. Gen. Reynold Hoover, commanding general of the 135th. "We will be changing doctrine on how to do logistics in an austere environment."

Soldiers of the 135th were put in a series of scenarios that ran 24-hours per day for one week during the MRX. In a simulated Afghanistan, the unit was given changing information based on the real requirements of Soldiers who are currently in country.

Trainers challenged every section with scenarios drawn from real world situations that the Soldiers will face in the upcoming year.

Chaplain Craig Holloway said everything in the training happened with dramatic speed. "Everyone got involved with each other's business. We had to communicate and know what our neighbors were doing because it affected us all."

The 135th had to constantly adjust plans when facing increasingly difficult situations.

"We had to figure out how to distribute a limited supply of water when some of it became contaminated," said Col. Jerry Martin, commander of the support operation. "We faced a damaged bridge, aircraft grounded with mechanical problems, and then the weather got bad."

"It looks like we're facing a perfect storm," said Hoover during an exercise briefing.

Many angles to the exercise added dimension and diversity to the training, Hoover said. Representatives from the 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the unit filling the logistics role in Afghanistan now, and Marine and British liaison officers that will be coordinating logistics with the 135th in Afghanistan participated to add depth to the scenarios.

Subordinate units about to deploy with the 135th were also incorporated by being put through similar paces in their roles. Unusual for an MRX, the civilian contractors and Department of Defense agencies supporting operations in theater also had representatives on hand to inform the 135th of their respective roles.

Adding to the realism were Afghan nationals playing the roles of native dignitaries, families, victims and television reporters. This presented real situations where the Afghan language and culture were presented to the Soldiers. This was most Soldiers' introduction to the people who are working with us to build a more peaceful Afghanistan.

" ... Trainers and mentors at the MRX provided invaluable support and great insight into our operations," said Hoover. "They helped us prepare and refine our processes to face our mission with excitement and high morale."

Most of the more than 250 Soldiers in the 135th are members of the Alabama National Guard and are stationed in Birmingham. They have been preparing for more than a year for this deployment. They arrived Nov. 2 with most of their mobilization training complete except for the basic warrior task of weapons qualification.

Trainers from the 120th Infantry Brigade provided small arms training on the range and other warrior skills needed by the Soldiers. 

"We produce," was the call made by a coach on the rifle range as each Soldier completed zeroing their weapons with new close combat optics attached.

"The 120th was a huge help with their training," said Capt. Dana L. Basden, company commander at the 135th. "We accomplished a huge feat by losing only 3 Soldiers in the mobilization process. Most mobilizing units lose 8-10% due to medical, legal or administrative issues."

Preparation of the 135th prior to arrival at Fort Hood paid off when the Nov. 5 shooting stopped training for a few days. Despite the training slow down the unit will miss no training or be delayed for its departure whatsoever.

Once in Afghanistan the members of 135th will be responsible for supplying for a rapidly growing number of servicemembers expected to reach nearly 100,000. These troops will drink more than 1 million cases of bottled water per month, eat more than 210,000 meals each day, they will burn more than 2 million gallons of fuel each month. The 135th will be responsible for planning the safe and efficient delivery of these supplies to the troops as needs increase.

The 135th will supply more than 200 forward operating bases and almost half will be supplied by aerial drop only.

The challenges in Afghanistan are many, said Martin. It is much different than Iraq. There is no established infrastructure. We will lack water, electricity and a good road network. The rough terrain is critical to planning.

"This is truly expeditionary sustainment", said Hoover. "We are excited and ready to go."

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS:

 
A soldier of the 120th Infantry Brigade adjusts the sights on the close combat optics for a member of the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
Sgt. 1st Class George Salonga, a senior trainer at the 120th Infantry Brigade, coaches a soldier on her marksmanship during qualifying at Ft. Hood.

 
Staff Sgt. Christopher Duncan, of the 120th Infantry Brigade, conducts a class for the 135th ESC on how to overcome the dangers of IED attacks that the soldiers could encounter while deployed to Afghanistan.
 

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