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Feature Stories

NEWS | July 27, 2017

Look out below! Cav troopers train on emergency resupply

By Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, Ist Cavalry Division

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – The scenario: Soldiers are engaged in a firefight with the enemy in a desert of Southwest Asia halfway between somewhere and nowhere. The Soldiers are holding their own, but they are in need of an emergency resupply of ammunition, food and water.

Typically, it is the responsibility of the forward support company to return to the rear, collect various classes of resupply, from food and water to ammunition and vehicle parts, and bring those supplies to the companies they support. But in this scenario, that method of resupply is not feasible, and this is where air support becomes an integral part of the logistics mission.

Soldiers from 215th Brigade Support Battalion “Blacksmiths,” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division took advantage of a rare opportunity to conduct air drop training July 27 at Udairi Range Complex.

“Being in an armored brigade combat team, we deal in mostly much larger scale commodities versus supporting a light infantry unit, for example,” said Capt. Joseph Feathers, Alpha Company, 215th BSB commander. “So we’re used to pushing 10-20-30 thousand gallons of fuel to a unit, 10-12 pallets of food at a time, thousands of gallons of water at a time to support a unit. So to be able to get familiarization with aerial resupply, this is good, because when these guys leave an armored brigade, they’re going to be sent to a light infantry, they’re going to be sent to an airborne unit, and if they don’t get to experience something like this, it’s all going to be brand new to them.”

Three forward support companies participated in the training and received their mission early in the morning. They were to conduct a tactical movement from Camp Buehring to Ganzet Drop Zone.

On the way, they had to react to simulated indirect fire and simulated improvised explosive devices. As a result, they also had to respond to a disabled vehicle situation within their respective convoys.

“The convoy experience itself was crucial to the units, because in two weeks, they’ll be doing a convoy live-fire exercise, so it’s part of that build up for them to be able to refine their [tactics, techniques and procedures] to do that next training,” said Capt. Hilary Genevish, Blacksmith Battalion operations officer.

Upon arrival at the drop zone, the Soldiers had to mark it with VS17 Panel Signal markers, brightly colored panels made of tough, durable nylon. Opposing forces, played by Soldiers from Bravo Company, 215th BSB, were waiting for them at the drop zone, so they had to react to contact and secure the DZ for the incoming helicopters.

Once the DZ was secured, the Soldiers contacted the pilots to inform them that the DZ was secure and marked with violet smoke.

“Normally for air drops like this, with my prior experience in Afghanistan, it’s an emergency resupply,” said Feathers. “It’s not used as a primary means of resupply, so say, for example, one of our companies is under contact, and they’re in an isolated area and they can’t get a normal means of resupply of ammunition or food. We would use an air drop like this to provide a quick, 24-48-hour resupply to that unit, so we’d basically approach the drop zone, pick it up, and bring it to them so they wouldn’t have to come back to get it.”

Feathers said most of his Soldiers had never done a resupply by aircraft before.

“Being able to actually use real aircraft here to conduct a drop, simulate enemy contact on the drop zone,” he said. “It’s really good, because it familiarizes our guys, like I said, who are used to the big stuff, supporting tanks, but more importantly they’re supporting the Soldiers directly. It’s the first time that most of them have done any kind of mission with an aircraft.”

“I’m not too familiar with aerial resupply actually,” said Pvt. Kyle Thurkill, a truck driver assigned to Alpha Co. “This is my first time doing it, so I’m still getting the basics down and learning how to do air drop convoys and stuff of that nature.”

Thurkill, who is a gunner, said he has learned a lot of good takeaways from the convoy part of the training as well, skills like keeping his weapon on a swivel and keeping vehicle distancing.

“The value of training like this is it’s a forcing function,” said Genevish. “It forces each company to actually put together a solid, tactical sustainment package and to give them at least some kind of exposure to recovering items off the drop zone, so the biggest piece for them is we’re a heavy brigade combat team, and they don’t normally see these kinds of things in action. But if they deploy forward into mountainous terrain or anywhere where routes aren’t as easy to maneuver, they’ll need to know how to conduct aerial resupply.”