Welcome to my random muses of being an aspiring banjo player, a Battalion Commander, a student of Army War College, and my admiring observations of Soldiers. It's all to the tune of yet another deployment to this country called Iraq.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

So What Did We Accomplish?

The 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion became the first unit of its type in the Army Reserve when it was formed in 2006. At the time the Battalion's HHC and Headquarters were alerted of their pending mobilization, the 275th was unproven and untested. There were many who doubted the new logistics battalion would be able to handle the rigors and demands of complex combat sustainment and retrograde operations - much less be able to provide mission command to the various Active Duty, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard units that would be assigned to the 275th once they deployed. Most members of the Battalion were newly assigned and over half had never deployed to a combat environment before. In September 2010 I had been pulled from command of another battalion to lead the 275th CSSB in both its train-up and deployment. Together, we only had a few short months to fill out our manning roster and prepare for the demands of combat logistics. When we first deployed to Contingency Operating Base Speicher in early April 2011, we assumed the traditional mission of the outgoing CSSB - providing sustainment to U.S. bases in Northern Iraq. Within a month of our arrival our mission became infinitely more complex, as the demands of combat retrograde began to take priority. We were just getting started.

There was no way any of us could have predicted how much our mission and battalion would grow over the remainder of 2011. What we accomplished was logistics history. The 275th CSSB played a leading role in the closure of every U.S. base remaining in Iraq. Our Battalion changed location three times as we completed retrograde from north to south. Each time we "jumped TOC" our battalion mission increased in size. At the same time, the 275th CSSB grew from its original strength of just over 600 Soldiers to an eventual size of over 1,400. This made the 275th the largest logistics type battalion in the history of the Iraq War. The ultimate honor was when the 275th CSSB was chosen over three other sister units in Iraq to be the backbone of the final retrograde of forces required by Operation New Dawn. On 18 December 2011, Soldiers from the 275th became some of the final personnel to leave when they shut down the bulk fuel farm, convoy support center, and the cargo receiving and shipping point at Camp Adder. I could wax eloquent with great pride for every one of my Soldiers. Our numbers speak for themselves.

Trucks from the 275th CSSB completed 1,024 convoys that covered 3,423,128 miles throughout Iraq and into Kuwait. These convoys, all under the threat of hostile enemy action, safely transported 361,072 short tons of retrograde and sustainment cargo.

The 275th CSSB sustainment U.S. Forces in Iraq with 1,822,170 cases of bottled water, 10,429,000 rounds of ammunition, and 16,114,865 gallons of fuel.

Soldiers of the 275th CSSB operated and closed each of the Cargo Receiving and Shipping Points (CRSP) in Iraq. These vital hubs successfully processed 39,253 shipping containers (20' and 40'), 22,965 vehicles, 8,982 "463L" pallets of cargo, and 48,442 skid-mounted pieces of equipment.

Field Service Maintenance facilities manned by the 275th CSSB completed 2,115 work orders in direct support of various US Forces-Iraq units.

275th CSSB provided direct support to various operational moves of multiple combat units in Iraq that ensured the security of the various stages of the final retrograde out of the country.

Operations of the 275th CSSB spanned the entire country of Iraq and ranged into Kuwait. Every single U.S. base remaining in Iraq as of April 2011 was eventually closed through either the direct or indirect support of the Battalion.

Operating as part of the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the 275th CSSB reported to the 77th Sustainment Brigade until 15 October 2011. After that, the 275th CSSB reported to the 4th Sustainment Brigade for the duration of Operation New Dawn. Together, we completed the largest combat retrograde of United States Forces since World War II. The Battalion proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were ready for every challenge, every mission, and every task. We proved the Total Army Concept in combined logistics using a mix of units from every component of the Army. The following list comprises each subordinate unit of the 275th CSSB during Operation New Dawn:

275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Fort Lee, Virginia (Army Reserve)

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 275th CSSB "Mad Dawgs"

89th Transportation Company, Fort Eustis, VA (Active Army) "Road Masters"
22 April 2011 - 18 December 2011

370th Transportation Company, Brownsville, TX (Army Reserve) "Border Bandits"
22 April 2011 - 31 August 2011

196th Transportation Company, Orlando, FL (Army Reserve) "Blue Devils"
15 August 2011 - 18 December 2011

68th Transportation Company, Fort Bliss, TX (Active Army) "Road Warriors"
15 October 2011 - 18 December 2011

941st Transportation Company, Charelston, SC (Army Reserve) "Sand Sharks"
15 October 2011 - 18 December 2011

238th Field Service Maintenance Company (One Platoon), San Antonio, TX  (Army Reserve)
22 April 2011 - 31 August 2011)

403rd Inland Cargo Transfer Company (One Platoon), Fort Bragg, NC (Active Army)
22 April 2011  - 31 May 2011

372nd Inland Cargo Transfer Company, Fort Campbell, KY (Active Army) "Deuce Train"
01 June 2011 - 22 December 2011

305th Quartermaster Company, Fort Campbell, KY (Active Army) "No Slack"
15 October 2011 - 22 December 2011

1729th Field Service Maintenance Company, Havre de Grace, MD Army National Guard) "Ravens"
15 October 2011 - 22 December 2011

24th Ordnance Detachment, Fort Stewart, GA (Active Army) "Dragons"

The accomplishments of the 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion can best be summarized by the citation on the units Meritorious Unit Commendation. The words summarize an appropriate conclusion to a fantastic deployment. "Mission First! Soldiers Awways!"


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Welcome Home Warrior Citizens!

"I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honors not founded in the approbation of my Country" - George Washington

Coming home from a deployment can be equated to the quarantine that astronauts would be placed in upon returning from the moon. For the Soldiers of the 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, that place of quarantine was Fort Dix, NJ. It isn't exactly the "garden spot" of the Army - or of New Jersey for that matter. But it served the necessary purpose of demobilization for everyone. The 275th CSSB arrived at Fort Dix early on the morning of December 23, 2011. This meant that nobody at the demobilization center would be working over the Christmas holiday. As such, we were all sent on a 4-day pass. Most of the Soldiers went home for Christmas. Some of us stayed local in places like nearby Philadelphia. On the 28th we all returned to Fort Dix to begin the demobilization process. This consists of a assembly line of stations where everyone is cleared for medical, dental, behavioral health, and administrative records. A few of the Soldiers took longer than others due primarily to medical issues. For the most part though, everyone was complete by the first week of January.

On January 5, 2012 we loaded on buses and headed south to Fort Lee, VA. We were going home for good. Once we arrived at Fort Lee we began the final phase, known as "home station demobilization." The culmination of this would be our Welcome Home Warrior Citizen Ceremony. Our ceremony was held on January 8th at the Army Logistics University on Fort Lee. It was an amazing and truly fitting ceremony to honor our heroes. There were many VIP's in attendance - including three General Officers, several Sergeants Major, various members of the state and local government, and others. U.S. Representative J. Randy Forbes provided the keynote address. Television and newspaper reporters were on hand to record every aspect of the event. But the most important VIP's in attendance were the Soldiers and their families. They were the ones who endured the hardships, gave their love and support, and accomplished every mission. The ceremony was about them and for them. Now they were all reunited to share the pride in their accomplishments. The ceremony signaled mission complete and job well done. At the conclusion of the ceremony we held a reception. Then came the long awaited moment we had all worked for and patiently awaited for so long - we went home. Indeed our mission was complete. Job well done 275th CSSB! You have all earned the right to go home. Thank you for being a part of logistics history. We will forever be "Mission First, Soldiers Always!"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye Kuwait - We're Off to Fort Dix!

"The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." - Maya Angelou
Our wait ended on December 22, 2011. The previous night we loaded on buses that transported us from Camp Buehring to the "Theater Gateway" at Camp Virginia. Thus began the complicated process of coming home. Nothing in the Army is ever as easy as it seems. Demobilization is a great example. It requires travel back to CONUS followed by several days (or weeks) at a designated demobilization center. In our case, we would travel to Fort Dix, NJ. The process began with our arrival at the Theater Gateway. After shuttling into a large tent, we were given complete briefings from the Navy Customs personnel and reminded that General Order #1 remained in effect. Then we gathered all of our gear and baggage for the screening. This meant moving to another tent where x-ray machines were ready to receive us. It was a scene reminiscent of TSA at an airport except that everyone was in uniform. Fortunately, there were no glitches and we rapidly made our way through the screening. From there we went on "lock down" inside a t-walled customs holding area, where we would remain until departing for our flight. By now it was around 0300 and we were all very tired. We tried to stretch out on the seats or the floor but it was no use. We were either too uncomfortable or too excited to sleep. It didn't help that the tents were cold. As the sun came up on the 23rd, we all knew our last day in the CENTCOM AOR had arrived. By the time the sun set, we would be well on our way back to the U.S.

Around noon we loaded buses again for the drive to Kuwait City International. There awaited a North American Airlines Boeing 767 with our name on it. Once we finally boarded and got our gear stowed, the flight commander briefed us on the rules. Then we were off. As the plane lifted off we all cheered and clapped. We were on our way. Our flight plan included two refueling stops. The first would be Leipzig, Germany. Flying time from KCI to Leipzig was about six hours. Most of us slept. Once in Leipzig, we had about two hours to visit the gift shop and be tempted by the beer (still off-limits due to GO#1). Many of us purchased stocking stuffers. I bought a few Kinder Eggs for family (and one for myself). Then we were off to our next refuel stop - Shannon, Ireland. It was almost a replay of Leipzig, except the native language was different. CSM and I purchased breakfast and ate in a daze of travel exhaustion. Once we were back on the aircraft for the final leg I crashed and slept for the majority of the remaining travel.

Our final destination was McGuire Air Force Base. We arrived at 0430 on the 23rd. It was raining and dark. But when we descended the ramp onto the tarmac we were greeted by a long line of Soldiers who were there to welcome us home. The first person in the line was my good friend and former Commanding General, BG Lennon. We shook hands and embraced. Nobody noticed the rain. We were just happy to be back - all of us. The news of our historic mission had traveled far and wide. Now we were back on United States soil. Although we weren't home, we were at least a huge step closer. The awaiting buses took us to Fort Dix, which shares the same real estate as McGuire AFB. By 0700, we were in our temporary barracks and ready to begin the process of demobilization. Welcome back to the United States! I think all of my Soldiers can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and now believe that home is our next stop. We'll all be home for 2012. It will be a very good year indeed.