By Spc. Dakota Vanidestine
103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
With a noteworthy lineage dating back to World War I, a deployed Army Reserve unit provided praiseworthy sustainment operations on their recent deployment to the Middle East.
The 77th Sustainment Brigade (SB) arrived in the Middle East in June, 2019 and is now preparing to head back to Fort Dix, New Jersey. However, their mission accomplishments in the U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR) have made a lasting impact on current operations.
A few major achievements of the 77th SB during their time in theater include:
• Enhancing CENTCOM’s Aerial Delivery processes for improved efficiency
• Laying the groundwork for the establishment of Sustainment operations, supporting the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
• Commissioning new fuel sites in support of ongoing missions in Iraq.
One reason for the success of 77th SB is the diversity of the backgrounds of its Soldiers, said Col. Jake Kwon, commander, 77th SB.
“Our edge is the diversity of talent we bring to the battlefield. We have Soldiers who work for the New York Police Department, Wall Street, mechanics, lawyers, and even doctors. We have Soldiers from 48 different states,” said Kwon. “Another factor that makes us diverse is that our team is multi-compo – composed of active, Reserve, and National Guard Soldiers.”
The 77th SB’s diversity played a direct role in their ability to remain flexible during their current deployment.
“The 77th SB staff participated in the Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, prior to arrival in theater.” said Maj. Adam Rosenbaum, operations officer in charge, 77th SB. “The program provided a great base for the staff to build on and combined with our team's diversity of civilian backgrounds, we were cohesive and flexible as theater requirements evolved.”
One example of flexibility occurred when the 77th SB went from three to five battalions.
“We assumed mission command of three battalions, which is typical,” said Rosenbaum. “Due to mission requirements, two more battalions were added under us, which increased our scope of responsibility from roughly 2,100 Soldiers to approximately 3,000 in multiple locations. We were able to adapt and overcome by utilizing team work both internally and with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) to ensure our battalions were properly resourced and had the time and space to be successful.”
Cohesion was not only evident within the 77th SB, but across the board – including higher echelons, subordinate units and stakeholders.
“We were successful by working alongside and communicating effectively with the 103d Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) and the 1st TSC,” said Kwon.
“We made sure to build strong relationships with our stakeholders and incorporate them into the process. We included them from start to finish so that nothing would come as a surprise to them,” Rosenbaum added.
“Some of our success needs to be attributed to the subordinate battalion commanders, as well. Every one of them was tactically proficient and possessed outstanding organizational management skills – they were all professional logisticians,” said Rosenbaum.
“The ability to trust subordinate commanders, senior officers, and noncommissioned officers to exercise mission command was critical to our overall success,” Kwon added.
The 77th SB attended two important training exercises prior to entering theater that enhanced their ability to remain flexible and make decisions in a hurry.
“Two exercises that we attended prior to this deployment were the Command Post Exercise – Functional (CPX-F) in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Warfighter in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. During the Warfighter exercise, we had the opportunity to work side-by-side with 82nd Airborne Soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Robert Van Duzer, commander, 77th Special Troops Battalion. “Those two exercises focused on crisis action planning, which forced us to learn how to leverage our assets and respond expeditiously.”
The Syrian retrograde was one of the first times where the 77th SB was forced to exercise their training and make quick decisions.
“We were tasked with establishing the plan for getting equipment and personnel out of Syria during the retrograde. This was the first time in theater that things were not routine for us; we were forced to make decisions rapidly” said Van Duzer. “Within a few days, we built an entire truck fleet that was ready to pull assets out of Syria in a moment’s notice.”
Coincidentally, the 77th SB’s team cohesion and training was tested when they were faced with bringing the 82nd Airborne Division, their former counterpart during the Warfighter exercise, into theater.
“Within 24 hours after receiving notice that the 82nd would be coming to theater, we already had a plan drafted as to how we would get them and their equipment to where they needed to be,” said Kwon. “We were successfully able to accomplish the mission within days upon their arrival.”
The support operations (SPO) section was directly responsible for the logistics of Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration (RSOI) of the 82nd Airborne Division.
“Within a half hour of receiving news that the 82nd was coming, our team had an RSOI plan ready to brief to the commander,” said Lt. Col. Adam Seibel, SPO officer in charge, 77th SB. “Within an hour, we were executing the plan and sending the appropriate personnel where they needed to be.”
As an Army Reserve organization, the 77th SB was able to offer a unique combination of skillsets to the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
“Our mission here highlights the Army Reserve. Because our Soldiers bring skillsets from the civilian side, we have a range of experience that allows us, leaders, to exercise talent management appropriately,” said Seibel. “In the Reserve, a Soldier’s grade might not reflect their duty responsibilities because of the experience that they have on the civilian side.”
“We are a tremendous force multiplier for the Army because of our ability to interchangeably serve our nation, while offering a diversity of skillsets while mobilized,” said Kwon.
The mission success of the 77th SB can be attributed to one common theme – trust.
“Everything has to move at the speed of trust. We trusted our seniors to act within the commander’s intent, which allowed us to look further and anticipate other mission requirements in a volatile and ambiguous theater,” said Kwon.
“A brigade cannot operate within the CENTCOM area of responsibility without trust, and it was our communication with the 1st TSC, 103d ESC, and our subordinate units that enabled that trust,” Van Duzer added.
Overall, the 77th SB’s deployment to the CENTCOM area of responsibility has been a great learning experience.
“The CENTCOM area of responsibility is the epitome of timely and flexible logistics,” said Seibel. “I believe that anyone who comes to this area will be forced to become a true and tested logistician and will leave with their PhD in logistics.”
The 77th SB’s transfer of authority with the 304th SB, which is headquartered in Riverside, Calif., is set to take place at the end of February. Soldiers of the 77th SB will depart theater and head back to the states shortly afterwards.
Staying true to their history, the 77th SB continued to light the path of perseverance and flexibility for future sustainment operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION