24 November 2010

More Notes from a Logistical Battlefield

Continued from yesterday's blog post ...

FORT IRWIN, Calif., late September--As the desert home of 334th Brigade Support Battalion (B.S.B.), Forward Operating Base ("FOB") King is the logistical hub of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division's operations. In addition to a headquarters company, 334th BSB comprises:
  • Alpha Company (Transportation), which provides transportation and distribution of food and fuel.
  • Bravo Company (Maintenance), which provides higher-level repair of vehicles and equipment.
  • Charlie Company (Medical), which provides preventive and emergent medical care, including behavioral and dental health, and physical therapy services. Known informally as "Charlie-Med," this unit provides care for soldiers who can be fixed within approximately 72 hours. Soldiers requiring care in excess of 72 hours are typically evacuated to higher levels.
  • Echo, Foxtrot, and Golf Companies of 334th BSB are "Forward Support Companies" (F.S.C.), and are each directly attached to maneuver units--infantry and cavalry--where they provide transportation, maintenance, and other support.
Logistics soldiers at FOB King say they're being delayed in moving food around the battlefield. Rations aren't arriving broken out into components, and in the headcount numbers required for each FOB. That means the BSB soldiers are resorting and repacking, rather than simply transferring goods between trucks. Meanwhile, their warfighter brothers continually complain that dinner isn't always on the table right when they get home. The loyal loggies take their very jobs seriously, and think the grumbling a little hard to stomach.

The motto of the 334th BSB is "Support the Attack"--a reference to the 34th Division's motto of "Attack! Attack! Attack!" In an unscientific survey, I find soldiers across FOB King armed with a new joke-of-the-day. Apparently, they volunteer, someone put out a memo that the new Red Bull motto is to be "Attack the Support!"


Staff Sgt. Daniel Bitner is the leader of gun platoon, Alpha Company (Transportation), 334th BSB. It's only training, and they're already so constantly on the move that he's concerned about the potential pace in Afghanistan. "We got eight gun trucks, four trucks in each convoy," he says. "Talking with the 86th [the Vermont BCT they're replacing], they're doing two convoys per a day--one day, one night. If we do that, no one will get a day off."

Back in Iowa, Bitner helps run the Camp Dodge facility that refuels military vehicles. He's familiar with how logistics soldiers can cop an attitude when confronted with unappreciative customers. "If you need fuel at the last minute, I'll do stunts for you," he says. "But if you come in with attitude, I don't need you."

"You see it at [Annual Trainings] and stuff," he says. "Guys in the Cav or the Infantry will roll through with the attitude of 'you're just a fueler,'" says Bitner. "Hey, if you piss me off as a fueler, I'll just tell you to move out. I don't know whether you're topped off or not. Hope you've got a Jerrycan!"


Command Sgt. Maj. Willie Adams is an infantry soldier thrown into the logistics pool earlier this year, when he took the job as top-ranking non-commissioned officer in the 334th BSB. He's proud of his soldiers' professionalism and attitude, and tells them not to allow themselves to be maneuvered into bad moods.

"When I came into this battalion, I flat-out told soldiers that I didn't know logistics. I don't know their operation, and I didn't know their equipment," he says. "I told them not to be surprised when the old sergeant major pulled an E-5 [a junior sergeant] over to ask, 'What does this piece of equipment do?'"

"At the same time, I told them not to listen to the infantry guys about how hooah an 11-Bravo [the occupational code for infantryman] is: 'I could make any one of you 11-Bravo, but I couldn't teach just any 11-Bravo how to run an [Load Handling System], or a fuel truck, or any of those things. Those things take skills.'"


I promised you a pirate story from the desert. Here it is:

Fast-forward to around the beginning of the second week in The Box. An infantry battalion had repeatedly called for more Meals, Ready to Eat (M.R.E.), finding that it had burned through three days of rations in one day. The shortage apparently occurred when the unit changed to three-MRE-a-day ration cycle, rather than MRE at lunch only, with a "hot" at breakfast and dinner.

It wanted more, and wouldn't take "no" for an answer.

The 334th BSB repeatedly told them the MRE cupboard was bare. There was no magic stockpile of MRE. And there is no "fast food" in the desert--supplies take days to order, and more to distribute. An Army marches on its stomach, which is why it pays to think ahead.

The story goes that the infantry battalion dispatched a field-grade officer along with a small convoy--a raiding party, if you will--to FOB King for the purpose of liberating rations. "It was as if they pulled alongside our FOB, raised the Jolly Roger, and demanded our booty," says Lt. Col. John Perkins, 334th BSB commander. He laughs about it now, but he uses the story to reiterate that logistics is deadly serious business.

Still, you've got to admit, "M.R.E." is a lot of fun to say in pirate-brogue. Put the emphasis on the "Arrr" ...

1 comment:

  1. A special thank you, this Thanksgiving Day for all in the 2/34, we are very proud of you. D. Mills


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