VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion conducted a sustainment command post exercise July 16-20, 2022, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The five-day mission command training exercise was facilitated by the Army National Guard Mission Command Support Training Program with support from Soldiers assigned the Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team as well as the VNG Army and Joint Staffs.
“It was fantastic to see the collaborative training between the 529th CSSB and 429th BSB,” said Brig. Gen. K. Weedon Gallagher, the VNG Land Component Commander after visiting the CPX. “The exercise provided an opportunity for sustainment warriors to experience the overlap of the CSSB with it's hub-and-spoke commodity distribution systems with the BSB and it's delivery of commodities the last tactical mile. It's one thing to read about it in a manual, but it's another to coordinate the nodes and schedule the link ups in time and space."
The goal of the exercise was to increase staff proficiency in conducting the military decision making process, synchronized planning with subordinate units and successful sustainment operations in a tactical scenario.
“The CPX was a great success as it allowed the 529th staff to work through exercise injects similar to those we will encounter at our Joint Readiness Training Center rotation next year,” explained Lt. Col. Carlos M. Maldonado, commander of the 529th CSSB.
During their rotation, the 529th is scheduled to support the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from the Hawaii National Guard, and the exercise simulated the relationship the 529th will need to build and strengthen with the 29th IBCT in order to provide continuous, flexible support to the operation, he said.
In the training scenario, the 529th was attached to a higher echelon brigade combat team, and they were tasked to work with the brigade support battalion to execute logistics in order to maintain continuous, flexible logistical support through the duration of the operation. Soldiers assigned to the 429th simulated the brigade support battalion in the exercise.
Before the exercise even started, the 529th spent time in the field at Fort Pickett where they conducted a three-day field training exercise worked on field craft and tactical operations center employment and movement. They practiced “jumping” their TOC once in the field at Fort Pickett, then again with a movement to SMR and setting it up again for the CPX.
Throughout both the FTX and CPX, morale among the unit remained high, Maldonado said.
Flexibility and adaptability were two of the key lessons learned, Maldonado said. The staffs of the 529th and 429th went through a very detailed joint sustainment rehearsal the day before the exercise kicked off, highlighting routine resupply missions as they foresaw the operation progressing from offensive ops to stability ops. However, once the exercise actually started and injects began entering into the scenario, they had to adapt and overcome.
Scenario injects included main supply routes and alternate supply routes impassable due to weather or enemy activity, receiving indirect and small arms fire to convoys and equipment maintenance issues or damage that degraded capabilities.
“Both staffs learned the importance of maintaining a clear common operating picture with higher, lower and sister echelons in the operation through constant, deliberate conversation and synchs,” Maldonado said. “Not doing this could lead to duplication of efforts as well as putting convoys on the road without the required protection platforms or on the most recently approved routes.”
Maldonado explained that Virginia has multiple logistics units in the state, and exercises like this one are important for developing junior logistics officers, noncommissioned officers and Soldiers.
As a CSSB, the 529th exercises area sustainment, meaning they support any unit assigned to a specific area operations where the 429th is direction support to their brigade combat team. This joint exercise allowed Soldiers from both elements to see how the other side operates.
Maldonado also explained with the implementation of the Logistics Company Grade Assignment Board two years ago, VNG company grade logisticians are being deliberately assigned among both organizations during their company grade time, allowing them to become more well-rounded sustainment officers.
“We also haven’t done an exercise across major subordinate commands like this in recent memory,” he said. “My intent is to continue these cross-MSC training events in the future not only career development but also to give Soldiers exposure to other organizations in the Virginia National Guard, which may result in retention opportunities. Some of these Soldiers only know the unit they're assigned to. There is a whole big world out there with units that may be a lot closer to home they many not be aware of.”
While the 429th BSB was not the primary training audience, the Mission Command Support Training Program contractors focused on their training objectives as well to include validation of operating procedures, parallel planning and staff collaboration.
“The major benefit for the 429th BSB to participate in the CPX with the 529th CSSB was for junior officers, enlisted and some senior staff to experience integration of support provided by echelons above brigade units,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Tipton, commander of the 429th BSB.
Tipton agrees with Maldonado’s assessment this CPX was likely the first time that the BSB and CSSB has conducted staff operations in a collective training environment.
“Our biggest takeaway is the relationships formed across the battalion staffs that not only made this exercise successful for both units, but will become stronger as the organization intentionally manages the development of our officers through varying assignments amongst the different echelons within the Virginia Army National Guard.”
Tipton explained the importance of this event for VaARNG sustainment professionals is to emphasize the need for to take advantage of the opportunities in units at different echelons and capitalize on collective training opportunities whenever possible.
“As the 429th BSB Commander, I want to develop relationships for mentorship and peer development with the 113th Sustainment Brigade as part of 29th Infantry Division's Alignment for Training framework,” Tipton said. “There is a massive knowledge base we need to tap into to help the future logisticians better understand the warfighter mission area of logistics.”
Five months before the CPX, the 529th conducted training with the ARNG Mission Support Training Program on the military decision making process, and it helped familiarize the fairly junior staff with the process and developing best courses of action.
“Too often, we see staff sections operate in a bubble and get tunnel vision,” Maldonado said. “The MSTP contractors emphasized constant teamwork across staff sections to gain a better common operating picture and understand how everyone fits in the MDMP process, from the battle captains to the lowest enlisted member. We were then able to test these skills during the CPX as the operation progressed and we were faced with complex injects. The intensity of said injects got heavier as the days rolled on.”
Now the the challenge becomes taking everything the 529th learned from the MDMP training and CPX and sustaining it over the coming months and into their JRTC rotation.
Read more about the 529th CSSB at https://ngpa.us/20687
Read more about the 429th BSB at https://ngpa.us/21038