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Military task force proposed for disasters

June 10, 2011

By Spc. Kendra McCurdy, 593rd Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., June 10, 2011 -- A quiet plane cabin quickly turned chaotic with the sounds of clinking chains and barked orders as Airmen and Soldiers worked together to secure a truck to the cargo floor in preparation for take-off on McChord Field, Wash., May 25, 2011.

The plane’s destination: five minutes away on Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The 593rd Sustainment Brigade is in the final planning stage of a new project, the Deployable Sustainment Task Force, or DSTF, which would be capable of moving personnel and equipment with just 96 hours of notice, to provide humanitarian relief in the event of a natural disaster.

“The mission was a complete success,” said Capt. Jose O. Laguer-Cancel, who planned and coordinated much of the efforts of various sections from the brigade.

The 593rd Sust. Bde.’s prototype DSTF was alerted to a simulated natural disaster modeled after the tsunami in Japan earlier this year, Laguer-Cancel said. The task force moved personnel and equipment to the simulated disaster site nearby Eco Park, Wash.

The Soldiers set up the reverse osmosis water purification unit and began purifying water from the Puget Sound.

“Preventive medicine professionals from outside the brigade tested the water and certified that the water was potable,” Laguer-Cancel said. “Our brigade commander drank it. Validation was official at that point.”

Now that planning is complete and the DSTF has proven that it can execute a rapid deployment, the 593rd will submit a blueprint for the new task force to U.S. Army Forces Command, where decisions could be made to incorporate similar task forces in other large sustainment units throughout the Army.

A month earlier, the DSTF executed a smaller-scale mission.

More than 40 Soldiers were involved in moving the equipment, which included four forklifts, two flatbed trailers, a reverse-osmosis water purification unit, or ROWPU, and a mobile kitchen trailer pulled by a light medium tactical vehicle, from JBLM Lewis North to McChord Field, where two C-17s were loaded and flown to Gray Army Airfield.

“We simulated landing at an austere environment where we would need to go in and set up our equipment,” said Maj. Lawrence W. Bittner, the 593rd Sust. Bde.’s support operations chief, who has been overseeing much of the DSTF planning.

“We are providing the equipment, (the Air Force’s) loadmasters are getting training, their pilots are getting training,” Bittner said of the joint efforts of the Air Force and Army.

The 593rd Sust. Bde.’s capability to move its own equipment, provide clean drinking water, and keep up sanitation through laundry and field cooking services, makes it an ideal unit for this type of humanitarian effort.

“Right now we are validating the movement portion,” said Sgt. 1st Class Theodore E. Tayson, a transportation management coordinator assigned to the 593rd Sust. Bde.

Tayson attributes the task force’s success to teamwork, communication and synergy among Soldiers of the brigade.

Another practice event planned for later this summer will incorporate all three of the 593rd Sust. Bde.’s battalions. Until then, the battalions will be conducting their own training, while waiting for a response from FORSCOM on whether to expand the DSTF to other sustainment brigades.

“It’s a good exercise testing Soldiers’ readiness,” Bittner said. This type of mission requires the brigade to be vigilant and to keep its people and equipment always ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

“The equipment is operational,” Bittner said. “The Soldiers are always ready.”

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