1297th CSSB Trains to Sustain
By Capt. Cody Starken, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment —
FORT IRWIN, Ca. (Oct. 20, 2015) – The National Training Center plays host to multiple units, each looking to test their abilities to accomplish their war-time mission. One Maryland Army National Guard battalion aims to use this training to measure its staff’s command and control capabilities.
The 1297th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion is in the midst’s of their annual training in the heart of the Mojave Desert at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Ca. The surrounding Tiefort Mountains provide a picturesque view for those deployed to NTC to conduct desert training. The unit engaged in a hypothetical 15-day scenario in the fictitious land of Atropia. Atropia is currently under the threat of imminent attack from Donovian enemy forces. The 1297th CSSB has been deployed to support the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the Atropian people.
This is the first time a Maryland Army National Guard combat sustainment support battalion has been deployed on a NTC rotation. The unit worked for more than a year and a half planning for all possible outcomes during this rotation. The staff brainstormed, and planned for all possible outcomes to include logistical and administration support operations to other units.
During the training, NTC provided active duty observe, control, and train teams who evaluated and suggested improvements to the 1297th CSSB based on their performance. The NTC teams also observe simulated attacks on the soldiers by opposing forces during sustainment operations and how the soldiers responded to those attacks.
“The National Training Center gave us an opportunity to assess where the staff sections are, and where they need to be,” said Lt. Col. Charles Blomquist, commander of the 1297th CSSB. “These past three weeks have given us an opportunity for a lot of self-evaluations.”
The battalion worked with active duty logistics units from Texas, an Army Reserve unit from Michigan, and a Kentucky Army National Guard unit, giving them a unique training experience. Although the units come from different locations across the U.S., they are deployed here under Task Force Cadillac, led by the 1297th CSSB.
This opportunity creates a shared understanding of what it is to be a soldier. I think both active duty and reserve organizations have learned and strengthen from these experiences, Blomquist added.
“This is my first time working with the CSSB, and my first rotation to the NTC,” said Spc. Megan Thomas, a utility repairer for the 307th Maintenance Company, Kentucky National Guard. “It’s been great.”
To achieve success at NTC, the battalion depends on all the staff sections working together as a cohesive team. It is one section that has the true responsibility to ensure all missions for the battalion are staffed and have equipment ready to meet mission.
The support operation group has that responsibility and is tasked to coordinate all logistical supplies to and from locations requested by other units. On any given day, the section must track current and future convoys, the manifests, and arrival and departures. A lot goes into every movement in the logistical support area.
Capt. Kimami Smith, chief logistician for the 1297th CSSB, is the soldier charged with the responsibility to coordinate movements through the support operations section.
“I primarily examine logistical trends, support customers in the most proficient way, and to provide specific services e.g. transportation, maintenance, quartermaster,” Smith said. “If you ask for logistical support, we will get it to you.”
The support operations section acts as the nerve center for all logistic operations. When you walk into the support operations section, you see charts, maps tracking locations, manifests, and supplies currently within the battalion. It takes all this planning to send the trucks out of the gates.
“85 to 90 percent of a typical day mission is consumed with transportation and distribution based issues,” Smith said. “The [other] 10 to 15 percent is consumed with movement related issues.”
The NTC provides an in-depth training experience and gives commanders an idea where their soldiers and staff stand when it comes to real-time operations. The NTC observe, control, and training teams sit with the different sections, such as the support operations, staff sections, and the commander to prepare and develop their skills before deploying overseas.
“This has been an outstanding experience as a commander.” Blomquist said. “The full integration of the staff providing mission guidance has help me develop as a leader, and identified processes that has not been previously tested.”