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NEWS | June 12, 2023

Wheels will keep turning for Army Reserve battalion

By Master Sgt. Gary A. Witte 642nd Regional Support Group

Travel is a routine part of the 787th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion’s training, but this time the journey will take it overseas.

The Army Reserve unit, based in Dothan, Alabama, departed its headquarters Sunday morning, June 4, 2023. A handful of family members and friends said their farewells outside the building as their Soldiers loaded on buses to leave at dawn.

The battalion had prepared for its European deployment since before November. Command Sgt. Maj. Clint Halstead, the unit’s senior NCO, said morale rose when the unit learned its new missions would mainly involve convoys and moving supplies – reflecting its normal transportation work.

“It was intensely motivating,” he said. “When a mission set is put in front of you, all that training is more inspiring because you’re going to a real place.”

The initial trip on June 4 took the unit to Fort Cavazos, Texas, for the pre-deployment process. From there, the 787 CSSB will travel to support Operation European Assure, Deter, Reinforce. Many of the Soldiers have never served outside the United States before; those who did shared their personal experiences and advice with the others as they prepared for departure.

Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Rogers, the first sergeant, has deployed three times to various countries – Iraq, Afghanistan and Jordan. He said it will be important for the troops to keep in contact with their friends and families, maintain their finances, keep in touch with their personal spirituality and communicate with their leadership.

“If they don’t do it, they end up keeping to themselves,” Rogers said concerning communication. “They end up in a place where they’re in a rough spot … We can’t help them when we don’t know.”

This will be the first deployment for Staff Sgt. Devon Fields, a petroleum supply NCO, who said he was excited to finally go overseas.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s not easy leaving my family for this amount of time, but my wife understands this is a requirement and has the support she needs.”

Fields has a form of support he’s taking with him – his twin brother, Staff Sgt. Tyawan Fields. The brothers joined the Army together and went to basic together. Now they serve in the same unit and will be able to experience Europe at the same time.

Previously, they both tried to get on multiple deployments, but Tyawan, a transportation management coordinator, managed to go first and was sent in 2021 to Kuwait. While they talked by phone throughout that time, both agreed being there for each other in person will be an improvement.

“Going through it together makes it easier,” Tyawan said.

His wife, Jakelia “GeGe” Fields, said even though he just got back last year, she is now better prepared for the family hardships that come with a deployment – such as him missing the milestones their children will go through during the year.

“I think it’s going to be a little easier,” she said. “I know what to expect and what not to expect.”

Some Soldiers felt the same way. Spc. Jose Martinez, a communications specialist, previously deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. He said he was more relaxed about deploying this time and was glad he was going with the 787 CSSB.

He said his fellow troops have a sense of pride about using their skills for the missions they’ll be conducting.

“Being able to apply it for the Army overseas gives you a sense of accomplishment,” Martinez said. “A lot of them are excited for it – doing their job on the daily.”

The unit itself has a long history of doing its job and has been in Dothan in various forms since 1968. It went to Afghanistan in 2003 and supported Operation Inherent Resolve with a deployment to Iraq and Syria in 2018.

Maj. Hugh Carswell, the battalion executive officer, led a farewell ceremony the day before the unit left. He expressed confidence in the troop’s abilities, noting that the experienced Soldiers will help the newer ones.

“I think we have leadership in each section to fulfill the mission,” he said. “They know what their role is and they know what they’re doing. They have the confidence to get the job done.”