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Feature Stories

NEWS | Sept. 2, 2019

Theater Sustainment in CENTCOM AOR: ESC is the Key

By Maj. Andy Thaggard 184th Sustainment Command

Sustaining distributed operations across an area as expansive as the U.S. Central Command’s requires a team effort. Since December 2018, the 184th Sustainment Command, Mississippi Army National Guard's expeditionary sustainment command (ESC), has served as the team captain.

Deployed to Kuwait as the 1st Theater Sustainment Command's Operational Command Post (1TSC-OCP), the 184th is responsible for executing day to day mission command of more than 23,000 Soldiers, civilians, and contractors while sustaining four named operations across a theater that spans 20 nations, 18 languages, 22 ethnic groups, and 550 million people.

"The ESC is the TSC’s forward presence, our constant forward presence in the (area of responsibility), and absolutely crucial given the fact that our headquarters ... is split based between Fort Knox and Kuwait," said Maj. Gen. John P. Sullivan, commanding general of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command.

The 184th ESC has proved itself under Sullivan's command, and this is not his first experience with them.

As the 595th Transportation Brigade commander, he worked with the 184th in 2010-2011 when they served as the Joint Sustainment Command — Afghanistan (JSC-A) in Kandahar.

As the JSC-A, they regularly interacted with Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Dowd, then the 1TSC commander, providing updates regarding Afghanistan sustainment while also maintaining situational awareness of CENTCOM-wide operations.

"I was very pleased to see some of the same individuals that we worked with back then still in the 184th. I’ve just been extraordinarily impressed with the professionalism, the proficiency, and the unit cohesion that, in my mind, is really the trademark of the 184th," said Sullivan.

The JSC-A mission was not their first CENTCOM sustainment deployment.

From January 2005 — December 2006, the unit was organized as the 184th Transportation Command Element and fielded two container management elements to the CENTCOM area of operations. They managed more than 141,000 shipping containers, and developed and implemented a Container Management Support Tool — with more than 2,800 CMST users trained globally. The impact of those 80 Mississippi Guardsmen over two rotations was measured by saving the Department of Defense more than $173 million annually by ensuring shipping containers were properly tracked and returned to their owners — and "mitigating the largest logistics crisis in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom" at the time according to the U.S. Army's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.

For a group of seven 184th Soldiers, including Brig. Gen. Clint E. Walker, commanding general, Col. Hugh McCallum, support operations officer, the 1TSC-OCP mission is not the first time they've worked in the same building on Camp Arifjan, essentially performing the same OCP mission.

The 114th Area Support Group, lineal forefather of Det. 1, 184 ESC, served as a personnel filler for the 377th Theater Support Command from January — October 2004. The 377th was responsible for theater sustainment until 2006, before changes in Army force structure that introduced modularity and the theater/expeditionary sustainment command concept.

Be it in support of 2005 Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Mississippi or Exercise Saber Strike 2018 in Poland, sustainment is something that the 184th knows how to do.

Unit history does set expectations, but nothing beats experience.

Approximately 42% of the unit serves as full-time federal and state military technicians, Active Guard/Reserve program Soldiers, or D.A. civilians. Soldiers have an average age of 40, and 62% have at least one combat deployment — many with the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team in Iraq. Experience abounds, and experience helps mitigate risk.

“From combat operations in Afghanistan, to helping the Jordanian Army professionalize their NCO corps, to medical subject matter expert exchanges in former Soviet-bloc countries - operations here never stop. And it’s our job to make sure American troops, partners, and allies have what they need to do the job, every day.” said Walker.

184th Soldiers serve not only in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but also provide direct support to Task Force Sinai as the U.S. Army contingent for the Multinational Force & Observers in Egypt, as well as leading the 1TSC's Syrian Logistics Cell in Erbil, Iraq.

Knowing your role is essential.

"It was really evident to me right after taking command that they are completely plugged in to all of our subordinate units and what they’re doing, whether it be in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, or even Sinai, to enable what they’re doing," said Sullivan. "An ESC staff that is not completely engaged can find themselves getting in the way of tactical execution of sustainment, and that is not what the 184th does. The 184th enables.

"They are always very, very attuned to how to enable those sustainment organizations, executing tactically, and they do that to an extraordinary degree."

As the 184th prepares to transfer mission authority in September to the 103d Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserve, their effort to provide superior support for all continues.

"I would say the best of any Army units are those that share freely, that maintain connectivity, are always of the mind that it’s not about them. It’s about the mission. And so I have been extraordinarily impressed with the degree of connectivity between the 184th and the 103d,” said Sullivan.

"And that is a credit to the 184th, and it gets back to people focus, professionalism, and knowing their business, and knowing that it’s not about them. It’s not about any individual or any unit. It’s about the mission. And, again, that’s a great credit to the 184th and the culture that they have fostered, built, and continue to reinforce." said Sullivan.

The Total Army Concept lives every day in the 1TSC mission. All three Army components work seamlessly, along with sister services, DoD agencies, and partner nations. "One Team, One Fight" is more than a mantra, it's a requirement.

"I think if you were looking at a model for how this can work at its best, this would be it here with the TSC-ESC ... complete unity of effort in executing a very difficult mission," said Sullivan.