MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. –
The U.S. Army Reserve 288th Quartermaster Company, based in Victoria, Texas, provided water purification and distribution for Vibrant and Guardian Response 19 from Apr. 26 – May 16, 2019.
Vibrant/Guardian Response 19 is an annual exercise taking place from April 22 to May 22, 2019, at various locations in Indiana and Michigan. It is USNORTHCOM’s largest annual CBRN exercise and simulates a nuclear bomb detonation allowing U.S. Army units to train on disaster response and readiness.
The 288th's primary mission was water purification, transportation and delivery to locations in Camp Atterbury, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, and the surrounding area. U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Ricardo Ayala, one of the 288th QM Co’s platoon sergeants, said the unit was moving thousands of gallons of water every day to multiple locations. He participated in this exercise in 2018 and saw amazing improvements in the unit from then to now.
“I’ve seen a huge improvement in our internal communications,” said Ayala, “this year zero issues, we are all just working together.”
He contributes the improvements to the leadership the unit has grown from within and their focus on readiness. One area they identified early was drivers training.
“Two of my guys made sergeant and they have been providing training on MOS skills, Soldier skills and driving,” said Ayala. “We wanted all Soldiers licensed on all vehicles. Before, Soldiers were just licensed on their equipment, now everyone is licensed on everything they can.”
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Andrea Sanchez, a water purification specialist with the 288th QM Co, is also here for her second year. She appreciated the training focus leading up to the exercise and said the training even continued during the exercise.
“We have three teams that rotate, purification, distro and TOC (tactical operation center) detail,” said Sanchez, “and when there’s downtime, we don’t sit around, we cross-train. We teach the mechanics on water purification and they train us on vehicle maintenance.”
Sanchez said there is a real feeling of family among the Soldiers of the 288th. When they come to battle assemblies and exercises like this one, it is an opportunity to fellowship with one another and create strong relationships.
“We always find opportunities to bond,” said Sanchez. “Out here we had some barbecues, we celebrated Mother’s Day, and we always celebrate birthdays. It keeps us real close.”
That bond is important, especially when things get stressful during a mission. Sanchez said they ran into some challenges with their site, but the Soldiers didn’t turn on each other in their frustration, they relied on each other to get the job done.
“We had challenges with our pumps, lots of mud for trucks, and running some 24 hour operations, but the challenges just make it better because when you’re done, you did it!” said Sanchez. “We all just make sure we are on our shifts and we always have a backup plan ready. We are prepared in advance.”
Ayala appreciates that Soldiers like Sanchez have really internalized the idea of being prepared and ready. He loves to see them and the unit recognized for the great things they are doing.
“Readiness means you can act when called upon, and these guys get that,” said Ayala. “Taking care of them is my main task and when someone comes and recognizes us, it’s because of what the Soldiers are doing. That’s what great about these guys.”
The 288th Quartermaster Company is a part of the 211th Regional Support Group and the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The command is made up of Soldiers, civilians and their families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America’s Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.