SINTON, Texas –
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 851st Transportation Company were hard at work preparing equipment for overseas movement in support of DEFENDER-Europe 20, Feb. 8-9, 2020, here.
For the past several years, the main training focus for the U.S. military has been building the tactical readiness of service members and units. DEFENDER-Europe 20 builds on that foundation, demonstrating operational and strategic level readiness by deploying a division-size combat-credible force from the U.S. to Europe. This operation requires the support of tens of thousands of service members and civilians from multiple nations. To read more about DEFENDER-Europe 20 visit https://www.eur.army.mil/DefenderEurope/
Roughly 80 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 851st TC will travel to Europe as a part of DEFENDER-Europe 20. Capt. Elias Guerra is the 851st TC's commander, a traditional reserve Soldier who is also an ROTC instructor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He said the unit has really come together preparing their equipment for this mission.
"We are taking everything from generators and tents to PLS trucks and trailers," said Guerra. "This past battle assembly we started to clean and decontaminate the PLSs, so we were pulling 13-14 hour days to clean all these vehicles and get them ready to go."
The equipment preparations for overseas movement are no joke. Station one is cleaning dirt and grease off the equipment then it was on to station two for a decontaminating chemical spray. Once the vehicles were sprayed they were ready to be hauled to the port for movement overseas. Soldiers have been calling the job 'Operation Car Wash.'
Spc. Joseph Shuler, a utilities equipment repairer with the 851st TC, was part of the washing team. His father was a U.S. Army warrant officer, and Shuler spent some of his teen years stationed in Vicenza, Italy. He is excited to be heading back to Europe now that he serving and recognizes the importance of decontaminating vehicles before they go.
“We’ve been getting the work done, it just takes some elbow grease,” Shuler shared. “We have to make sure everything is clean and sanitized so we can limit our environmental impact.”
In addition to members of the 851st TC prepping their own equipment, some local units sent Soldiers to assist with the preparation. The 812th Quartermaster Company, headquartered in Kingsville, TX, sent several Soldiers including Spc. Joshua Tamez, to lend a hand. He said his unit put out the call for volunteers and he signed up.
“They needed volunteers, but I didn’t know that I was volunteering for operation car wash,” laughed Tamez. “I got put on the decontamination team.”
Tamez and the other members of the decontamination team had the important job of spraying each vehicle with a chemical cleaning agent. The team had to receive some special training and were required to wear protective gear for the job. It was tedious, but knowing he was a vital part of DEFENDER-Europe 20 kept him pushing forward.
“I am helping a larger operation,” said Tamez. “I might just be cleaning vehicles, but then I think about it, and we're part of a bigger picture. It's really motivating!”
Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Canales, the 851st TC's motor sergeant and acting 1st Sgt., is happy to have the extra help. These preparations are a valuable tool to push the 851st TC toward a higher level of readiness and Canales said it has highlighted areas where the unit needs work.
“It's shed a light on the struggles we go through to meet readiness standards and support the mission,” said Canales. “It’s a good measure of where we are, what we struggle with, and where we achieve.”
While DEFENDER-Europe 20 specifically refers to the movement of personnel and equipment to Europe, once units are there they will participate in other exercises and operations in a joint and multinational environment before loading up and redeploying to the U.S. The 851st TC will fly into Brussels where they will pick up their vehicles and then move to Poland to provide transportation support for many of these additional operations.
"We are really excited to do this mission," said Capt. Eliezel Jimenez, the 851st TC's officer in charge for this mission. "It will take our convoy approximately seven days, crossing two countries, to get from Brussels to Biedrusko, Poland, where we will be providing transportation support."
The unit plans will split into three teams that will rotate in to provide continuous support for the exercises before the final team gets the vehicles ready for redeployment back to the U.S. Jimenez says the experience the Soldiers will get working with partner nations is the best part of the operation.
"We are going to do missions with multiple countries including Spain, Italy, Poland, people from all over," said Jimenez. "As we keep learning about different cultures, we gain respect, and then, if there is a real war or mission where we have to get together, we can understand how everyone operates."
No matter what, this mission will exercise the 851st TC's muscles and increase their readiness with real-world experience. It is an incredible growth opportunity for every Soldier regardless of rank an experience.
"Most folks don't get these cool missions and we are all pretty excited about it," said Jimenez. "It is going to be an awesome experience that will increase our resilience and confidence as we get to actually exercise our MOS skills."
The 851st Transportation Company is 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.