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Sustainment community flexes muscle during armor rotation

By Sgt. DJ Borden October 30, 2017

ZAGAN, Poland -- The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division deployed from Fort Riley, Kansas to seven Intermediate Staging Bases throughout Poland during the 16th Sustainment Brigade's reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of the unit into the European theater.

This marks the beginning of 2-1 ABCT's nine-month heel-to-toe deployment in support of U.S. Army Europe and Atlantic Resolve. The 2-1 ABCT, also known as the Dagger Brigade, is one of U.S. European Command's regionally allocated forces tasked to build the alliance among allied and partner nations and to deter aggression in the European region through multinational training. The Dagger Brigade relieved the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, from Fort Carson, Colorado, after the unit completed its nine-month rotation.

The 16th Sustainment Brigade ensured 2-1 ABCT's smooth transition, integration, and rapid speed of assembly starting late September. The recent implementation of rotational armored brigade combat teams in Europe provides the USAREUR commander with greater flexibility in decision making.

"Our Soldiers are adaptive and empower junior leaders at the lowest level to make decisions that enable 2-1 [ABCT] to meet the 'ready-to-fight' criteria," said Lt. Col. Brian Ketz, 16th Special Troops Battalion commander. "Without our sustainers in place who understand the mission, the context of the operation, and the forward presence of Poland, this would not have been a success."

The RSOI enhances deterrence capabilities in Europe by maintaining armored combat power readiness throughout the duration relief-in-place/transfer of authority process between 2-1 ABCT and 3-4 ABCT. Defense capabilities in Europe remain robust with the persistent presence of U.S. troops spread from the Baltics to the Black Sea. The rotation also tests the speed in which the U.S. Army can deploy an armored brigade to Europe.

The 16th Special Troops Battalion established ISBs to rapidly receive the 2-1 ABCT equipment and personnel. The sustainment brigade's support of 2-1 ABCT at the bases allowed the ABCT to hit the ground running and focus on "ready to fight" tasks instead of having to worry about food, shelter, fuel, and ammunition.

"The ISBs set the stage for the operation and help with speed of assembly and operational reach," Ketz said. "We receive the equipment at the port, and once it's received at the ISBs it's our job to integrate it and prepare it for further onward movement."

Different companies within the 16th STB controlled each ISB. They each had a fusion cell that integrated into 2-1 ABCT's formation, enabling them to work together to complete warfighting tasks.

Before the equipment was received at the ISBs, it first arrived to the seaports. The 39th Transportation Battalion and 330th Transportation Battalion were responsible for tracking movements at the ports in Bremerhaven, Germany and Gdansk, Poland, respectively. The battalions worked with incoming 2-1 ABCT Soldiers at the ports to provide all sustainment requirements necessary for the Dagger Brigade to stage themselves throughout Europe.

Obstacles arose in the deployment of the Dagger Brigade and its equipment, most notably with the 299th Brigade Support Battalion's equipment, due to the effects of Hurricane Harvey at the port of embarkation in Texas.

With the deployment of the BSB's equipment delayed, 2-1 ABCT's armored vehicles that were able to depart before the hurricane were arriving to Europe without organic sustainment.
The battalions of the 16th SB, USAREUR's sole logistics brigade, flexed sustainment capabilities to provide the 2-1 ABCT with an equal level of support that their own BSB would provide despite the unforeseen weather obstacles that occurred at the port in Texas. The 16th SB used their pre-existing equipment and personnel to receive, maintain, and enable the 2-1 ABCT to achieve its warfighting tasks.

Col. Michelle Donahue, commander of the Knights Brigade, said she believes the brigade demonstrated the resiliency of the sustainment community in its actions and adaptability.

"Our plan was to quickly adapt to two hurricanes," Ketz said. "We developed a process that seamlessly integrated the sustainment operation without stopping the 10-day ready-to-fight model."

Capt. Frank Che, 16th SB S-3 Current Operations OIC, worked as a liaison for the brigade during the RSOI. He said the S-3 worked as a buffer and coordinated operations with support from the battalions.

"While we were receiving equipment from 2-1 [ABCT] we also received equipment from 3-4 [ABCT] because they were staging to return stateside," Che said.

Che and his team ultimately pulled double-duty working with the 3-4 ABCT equipment, while traveling from Garlstadt to Bremerhaven, Germany daily to receive equipment from 2-1 ABCT, sending daily reports to track the equipment's movement, and linking units and personnel to distribute responsibilities.

"We coordinated with 2-1, 21st [Theater Sustainment Command] and civilian contractors," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nolan Bendon, Missile Maintenance Technician of Support Operations, 16th Sustainment Brigade.

Bendon worked with the S-3 providing insight on maintenance requirements. He dealt with many maintenance issues from dead batteries in M1 Abrams tanks to familiarizing civilian contractors with specific types of equipment.

The 16th SB facilitated the movement of approximately 3,500 Soldiers, 400 wheeled vehicles, 140 Bradley fighting vehicles, 80 M1 Abrams tanks, 15 Paladin artillery systems, and more to Poland throughout the integration process.

Signal assets and communication was also vital to the success of the RSOI.

"Once the equipment was on ground my team reacted quickly and we began by putting up the first very small aperture terminal for the supply support activity along with its components, including the combat service support automated information system interface (CAISI), juniper router, and computers," said Sgt. Crystal Moran, unit supply specialist of the 16th SB Automation Support Management Office (SASMO). "It was challenging at first when setting up the VSATs in theater, but once we set up the first [one] through trial and error it became fully operational and the same tactics were used for the remaining fourteen."

Moran and her three team members set up the satellites needed for communication and completed their mission in three days. It was a faster time than last year's RSOI with the 3-4 ABCT, spotlighting the unit's ability to improve on last year's lessons.

The 3-4 ABCT completed their RSOI in ten days with the help of the Knights Brigade. The goal for those who participated in this year's rotation was to achieve "ready to fight" status in an equal or shorter amount of time.

"Our emphasis is getting ready to fight," said Capt. Joseph Laplante, commander of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. "Our tanks are going straight from the railhead to the range to certify that they are ready to fire."

Laplante said he believes as more armored brigades rotate to Europe, the timing will improve with each step in the logistics pipeline.

"I think it's phenomenal that you have U.S. Soldiers working with Polish civilian dockworkers offloading our equipment without accident or injury," said Capt. Douglas Ritchie, 16th SB S-3 Operations. "Everything went pretty smooth."

Ritchie worked in the fusion cell at Bremerhaven and witnessed firsthand the hard work and contributions of the 16th SB and 2-1 ABCT. He said the integrated operation within the fusion cell was an improvement on last year's RSOI due to the speed at which problems could be solved.

The 16th SB and 2-1 ABCT worked together during the RSOI, receiving quality training and improving unit proficiency. With the help of the Knights Brigade the 2-1 ABCT is "ready to fight" and ready to continue the support of a Strong Europe with multinational Allies and partners.

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