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NEWS | Sept. 6, 2017

143d ESC demonstrates logistical prowess at CSTX

By Sgt. John Carkeet IV 143d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

This U.S. Army post’s modest complement of Soldiers and civilians swelled several fold as thousands of service members descended upon its fields and facilities to conduct complex military training exercises designed to enhance America’s defense capabilities. Among the scores of Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force units performing missions and maneuvers stood the 143d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), a 10,000-Soldier strong Army Reserve headquarters that commanded actual and notional logistical operations during Combat Staff Exercise 17-02 conducted Aug. 7-22, 2017.

“CSTX is a culminating exercise that encompasses every component of our command,” said U.S. Army Col. Mark M. Stewart, assistant chief of staff, 143d ESC. “It’s an amazing opportunity to evaluate our ability to manage sustainment operations in the field.”

“Our primary mission is to provide uninterrupted sustainment throughout our area of operations,” added U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Deborah L. Kotulich, commanding general, 143d ESC. “Our capabilities successfully completed missions generated by CSTX’s combat simulations as well as real-world tasks required to support thousands of Soldiers participating in this exercise.”

CSTX’s simulations revolved around a conventional conflict spawned by political upheaval in the fictitious country of Atropia. The exercise tested the 143d ESC’s ability to supply downtrace units with fuel, food, weapons, ammunition and other materiel essential to America’s goal of reestablishing peace and stability in the region. From coordinating convoy schedules and supplying displaced civilian camps to evacuating casualties and engaging with local media, the 143d ESC managed nearly every logistical facet for its frontline forces.

“What we do at the operational level has changed dramatically in the last 15 years,” said Stewart, a native of Rockledge, Fla. “Our real enemies have acquired new technologies and adopted new tactics. CSTX injected these threats to encourage us to adapt and overcome unforeseen obstacles.”

In addition to sustaining thousands of service members immersed in the exercise’s constant influx of complex scenarios, the 143d ESC also managed the real resources that kept the participants physically and mentally prepared for the rigors in the field.

“We were responsible for fueling, feeding, sheltering and equipping approximately 1,800 service members who participated in CSTX,” said U.S. Army Col. Donald B. Absher, deputy commander, 143d ESC. “It was a massive undertaking that required careful planning and organization amongst more than 108 units spread across multiple time zones.”

To amplify realities of armed conflict, the strategic command teams driving CSTX’s simulations inserted numerous direct and indirect attacks on and around the 143d ESC’s Tactical Operations Center. A chemical attack forced Soldiers to don gas masks and protective gear, while a direct assault prompted the troops to form a defensive perimeter around the TOC.

“Those Battle Drills were our wakeup call,” said Stewart. “Our operations at the headquarters level does not excuse us from practicing basic soldiering skills. These skills are essential to individual readiness … As long as I am chief of operations, the 143d ESC will continue to refine those skills in upcoming Battle Assemblies and training exercises.”

The enormity and complexity of CSTX attracted top military leaders to include the Army Reserve’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey.

“The Army Reserve is the most lethal and capable federal reserve force in the history of our nation,” Luckey said to dozens of Soldiers huddled inside the 143d ESC’s TOC. “What you’re doing here demonstrates our ability to surge into battle to make the decisive difference.”

“Our efforts here coincide with Gen. Luckey’s ‘Fight Fast’ initiative,” added Absher, a Melbourne, Fla., native. “We once had the luxury of having months to prepare for mobilization. Today’s potential threats cut down our lead time to mere weeks—if not days—to deploy. ‘Fight Fast’ emphasizes the Army Reserve’s need to bring our forces to bear faster than ever before.”

The ‘Fight Fast’ concept pushed the participants to the outermost limits of their capabilities, particularly in the construction and maintenance of digital communications networks.

“Communication is the Achilles Heel in any organization,” added Stewart. “Technical difficulties with our computer networks were bound to happen. Instead of caving into the limits of unreliable computer technology, our Soldiers resolved many of these digital problems with analog solutions such as the prolific use of hand written charts, graphs and notecards to disseminate time sensitive information.”

Despite the challenges posed by Battle Drills, Mother Nature and Murphy’s Law, the 143d ESC’s leadership were impressed with its Soldiers’ attitude and performance.

“Many of us went into this exercise having never worked together,” claimed Absher. “We came out of CSTX as a proud team who accomplished so much in so little time.”

CSTX officially concluded Aug. 21. As Soldiers began to break down tents, secure vehicles and pack equipment, Kotulich reminded her Soldiers that the fight is far from over.

“The next major war might break out sooner than we might like,” said Kotulich. “When that happens, the American people will turn to its military for protection, and the military’s active duty components will turn to the Army Reserve to sustain victory.”