Army Reserve works with NATO allies to sustain life on the battlefield … virtually

By 1st Sgt. Ryan Matson | 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | May 16, 2018

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany —

Soldiers from the 89th Sustainment Brigade from Kansas City, Mo., and their subordinate units – the 329th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, from Parsons, Kansas, the 314th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion from Las Vegas, Nevada, and the 653rd Regional Support Group out of Phoenix — traveled to Germany, where the exercise took place for the first time. They participated in an assessment of how the Army and its allies would operate together in a future fight.

“We took over the role of area support missions,” Sgt. 1st Class Jake Fontes, the 89th SB fuels and materials management Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge, from Olathe, Kansas, explained. “We had four other CSSBs that we supplied materials and commodities to – everything from Class III fuel to MREs, water, bottled water, bulk water, and munitions. We also coordinated maintenance and covered down on all the mobility assets and when and where they were going. So it was a lot of movement and commodities.”

In this case, the Army Reserve Soldiers worked with Soldiers from Germany, France, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia to support 1st ID. There was one catch, though – this time, the support was theoretical.

The exercise used a software system known as the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulations Enhancements system to simulate a large-scale, three-phase ground campaign with 1st ID and their NATO allies. In the first phase, the allies infiltrated enemy terrain, in the second, they conducted combat missions to neutralize the enemy, and in the third, conducted additional offensive operations to sustain stability in the region and eliminate deep threats.

Along the way, the 89th and its subordinate units (including one additional, notional unit, the 319th CSSB), were responsible for providing everything a Soldier on the ground would need logistically to function.

For Lt. Col. Doug Wagner, battalion commander of the 329th CSSB, participating in the exercise, meant that his Soldiers had to switch roles from performing their typical job skills to learning to work with allies to coordinate support for the “big picture.”

“The training here is important to bring Soldiers from Kansas to Germany for the first time because we’ve been doing National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center rotations for the last five years in a row, so it’s tough to get out of that pattern,” Wagner said.

“It’s good for them to come out and actually work with Soldiers from other nations and see other things besides just their base-line jobs in the Army. It’s important to get this kind of exposure and see how they fit in the big picture. It builds morale to see how they fit into this big cog for the Army and how important their job is to sustain the warfighter.”

Col. Michael Beane, the 89th SB commander, said the logistical support provided in the exercise would translate into keeping American combat Soldiers alive and in the fight in a real-world scenario.

“The work that goes on behind the scenes is absolutely critical to not only the 89th SB’s success, but the 1st ID in achieving their objectives at JWA,” Beane explained. “Each Soldier has a specific role and responsibility in order to make our organization successful. The key among the staff and subordinate units is teamwork, especially during a mission of this magnitude. Although this is just a computer simulation, we treated it as if it were real life. If this simulation was a real-world exercise, and we failed to synchronize as a staff and as a unit, then Soldiers on the front line would not receive a timely resupply of food, water, fuel, and ammunition, all of which are mission critical. The teamwork is the synchronization across the formation that makes this unit successful.”

Each of the 89th’s units played a role in the exercise. The role of the 314th CSSB, out of Las Vegas, Nevada, was to provide logistical support to the German Army throughout JWA. 

Capt. Roy Alaniz, of the 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Fort Sam Houston, assumed the role of battalion commander of the 314th CSSB for exercise purposes.

“This was accomplished first by creating a good communication base line, then understanding how the German Army conducted their logistics, and finally implementing U.S. Army logistical processes and procedures in a blend similar to the German Army’s,” Alaniz explained. “An example would be how they pushed our unit a warning order for resupply but proceeded with the proper channels of request. Then both of the CSSB and the German CSSB kept tight communication until supplies had reached destination.”

The 653rd RSG, meanwhile, stepped into the role of a CSSB to support the British Army during the exercise. They conducted daily meetings with the British to ensure functionality between logistical systems in order to successfully support their fighting missions.

“We were able to actually get to know the British on a more personal level as well as a working level,” Lt. Col. Whitney Miley, the 653rd commander, said. “There was time in order to learn some customs and courtesies as well.”

While in Germany, Wagner and other Reserve leaders also thought it was important for the Soldiers to get a taste of life in Europe.

“I wanted my Soldiers to experience some of the culture and see some things in Germany” Wagner said. “Anytime you can get a Soldier away from the actual routine of what they do, it’s great for recruiting. This exercise also gave Soldiers the opportunity to go someplace that a small-town kid from Kansas might not have otherwise been able to afford to go to, or ever get the opportunity to go to.”

The mission required Reserve Soldiers to tap into one of their greatest assets – the ability to adapt to any situation. 

Spc. Dakota Foster, a power generator mechanic from Chanut, Kansas, who is a civilian automobile mechanic, and Sgt. Jason Burton, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) sergeant from Fort Scott, Kansas, who works as a civilian welder, were prime examples. Both men are used to getting their hands dirty – performing physical maintenance labor. During JWA, however, they got the opportunity to see the big picture of a multi-national logistical operation.

Foster played the role of a Chief Warrant Officer tracking the battalion’s vehicles damaged during the conflict and working to make sure they were repaired or replaced to remain mission capable.

For Foster and Burton, the exercise began with a crash course in logistics. They learned the supply systems and codes required to be productive in the exercise. Next, they became familiar with the JCATS software system, the program used to present the battlefield scenarios during the exercise. 

“I tracked and ran the numbers for fuel supply through JCATS during the exercise,” Burton said. “We were delivering the fuel to the French and Canadians. I had to learn how the numbers are tracked, and calculated. It seems silly because you would think – this is easy – you’ve got this many gallons and this many tankers that hold this many gallons. But you have to take into account things like you can’t fill each tanker full because the fuel expands in heat and things like that. ”

Burton admitted the exercise was a challenge, but at the end of the day, he learned a new skill set, and was able to adapt to the situation better than he thought.

“It was a lot to take in, but I like crunching numbers and doing math, because I do a lot of that with fabrication in my civilian job,” Burton said.

Both Soldiers said that after two weeks of training during JWA, if they were called to do the same job in a real-world situation supporting a multi-national operation, they had absolute confidence they could perform the required tasks to be successful.

“An Army Reserve Soldier definitely has one ace in the hole,” Fontes, a veteran of five deployments, said. “We are adaptable at all times, because we have to balance our military careers, and our personal careers and lives at home. We have civilian jobs, so we bring that additional life experience. I didn’t know anything about logistics when I was a young fueler and during my second deployment, I ended up being the NCOIC for the fuel supply across the country of Iraq. You have to be adaptable and versatile at all times, because the situations from this exercise could really happen.”