Soldiers Hone Tactical Skills During Field Exercise
Matthew Rothstein who works for the Improvise ExplosiveDevices program

FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 23, 2010) – Two-hundred and eighteen Soldiers from the 49th Quartermaster Group and 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion participated in a multi-faceted Tactical Operations Center Exercise Sept. 12-17 at Fort A.P. Hill.

The purpose of the TOCEX was to prepare the 530th CSSB headquarters for a deployment and allow the 49th QM Group to rehearse its command and control capabilities. In the near future, it will become the command element for 7th Sustainment Brigade units.

An advance party consisting of senior and junior officers, warrants and noncommissioned officers from a variety of 49th Group staff sections was the first to hit the ground at A.P. Hill. These Soldiers were responsible for the initial setup – pitching the tents that would serve as the tactical operations center, testing e-mail connectivity and establishing Video Teleconference and Secret Internet Protocol Router capabilities.

“Setting up communications in the field can be a challenging event; however we were able to successfully set up communications and conduct several VTC and communicate with the rear elements, said Capt. Adrienne Crosby, 49th QM Group. “The 63rd Signal Battalion Joint Network Node team played a vital role in our success as well. They were on the ground setting up and assisting with no hesitation.”

Also vital to the initial setup was the field feeding site. Although a dining facility was less than 50 feet away from the training area, the Soldiers put a Mobile Kitchen Trailer into operation to test the unit’s ability to operate in an austere environment.

“I found this training fun because most Soldiers don’t know how the cooks maintain field sanitation or operate out of a MKT,” said Sgt. Ralph Pabon, a food service specialist in the 506th QM Co., 530th CSSB. “Yet, when it was time to serve the meals they were always ready and waiting to receive good chow.”

All of the other elements of a true field training exercise – from chemical toilets and tent operations to buzzing mosquitoes and steamy temperatures – were also experienced by the troops, but none of those things prevented them from performing everything they would do in a normal garrison environment, including daily physical training and administrative work.

“This training exercise gave the operations section an opportunity to improve those skills needed to become proficient in battle drills as well as collective tasks,” said Master Sgt. Patrick Thomas, 49th QM Group. “Now, as we go into a new fiscal year, we have an excellent snapshot of how operations in a tactical environment can be executed successfully and we will only get better by doing subsequent exercises.”

Soldiers who were not part of the Tactical Operations Center staff focused on battle drills throughout the event. The 530th troops worked through the procedures for identifying improvised explosive devices, a very real and deadly threat they’ll face during their upcoming deployment. The Soldiers also focused on basic riffle marksmanship, and they had an opportunity to qualify on their assigned weapons.

“We were taught the basics of identifying improvised explosive devices because many of the new troops had never been through the IED lanes before,” said Spc. Shane Gibson, 530th CSSB administrative clerk. “Everyone was actively engaged and eager to participate in the scenario-driven exercises.

As the training drew to a close on Friday, organization leaders gave the operation a big stamp of success. The headquarters elements proved their ability to conduct staff operations and provide professional administrative support in a field environment, and the 530th gained valuable experience that should serve the unit well during upcoming missions.

“One of the many things I enjoyed about this exercise is that every level of leadership from private to colonel was actively engaged in training and focused on a great deal mentorship,” said Command Maj. Sgt. James Sims, 49th QM Group command sergeant major. “Because of the strong mentorship, we were able to successfully operate and set up a Tactical Operation Center in a limited amount of time, get retrained on improvise explosive devices and have a large portion of Soldiers qualify on their weapons. The willingness and the determination that I saw in every Solider during this exercise is what all Soldiers and leaders should have at all times to make anything and every mission possible.”