VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, conducted a Command Post Exercise May 5-18, 2018, during annual training at Camp Dodge, Iowa.
“We operated from a more expeditionary command post, the operational tempo was much higher and the complexity of the issues and problems to solve pushed the staff to find their true abilities and further develop their understanding of sustainment,” said Lt. Col. Dennis M. Rohler, 529th CSSB commander. “We’ve experienced a 65% change in staff over the last year, but the Cavalier Team executed at a very high level of proficiency at the sustainment training exercise and we look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”
Last summer, the 529th CSSB served as the first Army National Guard unit to participate in the Combined Arms Support Command sponsored Command Post Exercise – Functional, CPX-F. The CASCOM team traveled to Virginia Beach and guided the staff through a series of scenarios in a simulation exercise that tested the unit’s ability to provide sustainment support. This year the 529th CSSB built on that experience. They incorporated the task of preparing the unit for movement and mobilized to the Army National Guard’s Sustainment Training Center at Camp Dodge, Iowa.
To prepare the unit for movement, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, led by the command team of Capt. Marcus Smith and Sgt. 1st Class James Delaney, performed one of their mission essential tasks- to conduct expeditionary deployment operations. To exercise this task, the unit performed a load exercise to ensure the unit is able to move itself from the fort to the port. The LOADEX was conducted during a three-day inactive duty training scheduled in early April. The unit loaded rolling stock, generators and all section-level equipment. The 529th CSSB was supported by tractor trailers from the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion. The unit was fully validated by the Virginia National Guard defense movement coordinator.
To mobilize the unit to Camp Dodge an advanced party departed four days ahead of the main body to configure communications equipment. The staff conducted three days of operations orders development with mission command training support. While conducting the military decision making process, and prior to producing the operations order, the unit invested considerable time on ‘wargaming’ various courses of action from a sustainment point of view.
The 529th CSSB then entered a three-day command post exercise in which the scenario reflected they were in direct support of three brigade combat teams. Over the course of the three days the responsibilities of the staff significantly increased and the 529th CSSB found itself in direct support of five brigade combat teams, with more than 1,300 personnel in their task organization, and their concept of sustainment required 10 -12 supply convoy missions each day. The staff was challenged and according to Rohler, they performed tremendously under the leadership of the executive officer, Maj. Lyndsey Hodgkins and support operations officer Maj. Jason Detwiler.
The exercise also provided a venue for Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Coleman to exercise a pilot program that he and select members of the staff initiated called the “At Risk Soldier Program.” In this program personnel from the staff, including the chaplain, equal opportunity representative, unit commanders, first sergeants and the admin officer analyze life events that could cause certain Soldiers to become at risk in a number of areas. The program is aimed to provide services for Soldiers during times of need and to help head off escalation of issues by proactive Soldier-care initiatives. The exercise proved to be a great platform for the beta test.
On May 15, Col. K. Weedon Gallagher, commander of the 329th Regional Support Group, conducted a commander’s battle field circulation at Camp Dodge. Gallagher received a concept of support brief and had the opportunity to observe the command post exercise. Gallagher also visited the Blackstone-based 3647th Maintenance Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion while it performed a submerged vehicle recovery mission.
“We are happy that Camp Dodge was resourced for the 3647th Maintenance Company annual training. It’s the premier training resource for a company,” said Gallagher. “The Soldiers of the maintenance company were motivated and eager to talk about the skills being exercised at Camp Dodge. This annual training will definitely improve their readiness.”
According to Rohler, the 529th CSSB was honored to have two legacy members of the headquarters element assist in the training by simulating the roles of the higher headquarters sustainment brigade staff.
“Maj. Brian Webb and Master Sgt. Jeff Billmyer volunteered to assist in the training at Camp Dodge and brought a wealth of experience from their previous time in the 529th CSSB,” said Rohler. “Maj. Webb deployed to Afghanistan with the headquarters in 2010-2011 and served as the force protection officer. Master Sgt. Billmyer deployed with the headquarters in 2014-2015 and served as the senior forward logistics liaison in Baghdad, Iraq.”
According to Rohler, both Webb and Billmyer worked closely with the current staff and brought relevant experience to the exercise that was invaluable.
The 529th CSSB requested for a logistics field grade officer to support the headquarters element as the sustainment brigade commander. Lt. Col. Christine Brooks, Iowa Army National Guard, volunteered. Brooks is currently the commander of the Iowa-based 1034th CSSB, 734th Regional Support Group. She is preparing to mobilize along with her headquarters to Afghanistan.
“She volunteered her time to simulate the role of the brigade commander, but more than that she provided mentorship to myself and the rest of the staff,” said Rohler. “Her dedication to the development of another CSSB’s staff while preparing for her own mobilization was inspiring to say the least.”
“This annual training was a significant event for the 529th CSSB’s road to their available year. The CSSB’s leadership and Soldiers have been training smart and hard all year,” said Gallagher. “It’s encouraging to see Soldiers excited about their individual contribution to the annual training success. The command team did a fantastic job building cohesion and a strong sense of teamwork in the battlestaff.”