News: From Afghan battlefields to Army War College
Story by Maj. Sheldon Smith
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- As a decision on sending additional forces to counter gains by the Taliban looms in Washington, sustainment Soldiers on the ground continue to provide logistical support to the fight in Afghanistan. The 143d Expeditionary Sustainment Command, an Orlando, Fla., Army Reserve unit, was sent to Afghanistan to play a critical role in the addition of forces to shore up security.
The bulk of the 143d ESC members are assigned to Support Operations or SPO. The largest section in SPO is the Support Operations Distribution Management Center, led by recently-promoted Col. Thomas Vaccaro of Stafford, Va., who also serves as deputy SPO chief.
Vaccaro, a distinguished military graduate of the Shippensburg University Army ROTC program, is responsible for coordinating the efforts of 139 DMC Soldiers to ensure efficient and timely sustainment support to U.S. Forces - Afghanistan and more than 68,000 servicemembers. As an Army reservist, he has also been given a rare set of opportunities.
Most reservists achieve their military education requirements through a combination of correspondence courses and on-site classes that can be accomplished within a two-week period. Vaccaro, however, is one of a small group of Army reservists selected this year to attend the Army War College as a resident student.
"I submitted my package, and out of 650 [U.S. Army Reserve] Soldiers, I was one of three that were selected," Vaccaro said.
The War College will allow Vaccaro valuable insight into the workings of the Army as a whole, he said. "[It] will make me a more valued asset to the USAR through interaction with future Army leaders as I am learning from them and the instructors."
The Army Reserve has also selected Vaccaro to command the 165th Quartermaster Group at Fort Belvoir, Va., and granted him authorization to attend the War College while concurrently serving as a commander. To his knowledge, Vaccaro is the only Army Reserve officer attending the War College and commanding a unit simultaneously.
Originally scheduled to start his graduate-level courses at the War College in 2009, Vaccaro delayed enrollment for a year to accompany the 143d ESC as it mobilized for deployment as the first-ever ESC in Afghanistan.
"I will take what I have learned in the past 12 months and apply it to my command philosophy and leadership style when I work with the 316th ESC and the battalions under my command," said Vaccaro.
Functioning as the core of Joint Sustainment Command — Afghanistan, the 143d ESC is responsible for receiving units and their accompanying equipment into the area of operations. The 143d ESC supports units in staging areas where they conduct final preparations for their battlefield missions, and assists units with the onward movement of their equipment and supplies forward to their final destination. It also provides units with logistical support in nearly all classes of supplies necessary to sustain U.S. forces while they conduct operations.
"We plan, coordinate, synchronize, monitor, and control operational and strategic level logistics operations for USFOR-A in Afghanistan," said Vaccaro.
"I enjoyed working with the Soldiers of the 143rd ESC and I am proud to be part of their history," he said.