News: Learning key to prepare soldiers for deployment
Story by Sgt. Debralee Best
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. – The 620th Combat Service Support Battalion is preparing for future deployments with three weeks of annual training at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., for Combat Support Training Exercise 91.
The battalion is providing support from July 9-29 for transportation and quartermaster units with a total of almost 550 soldiers. These units provide water purification, laundry and bath services, transportation of supplies and materials, and retail and bulk fuel.
“Because we are a sustainment battalion, our responsibility is to provide support to units that come into our base of operation,” said Sgt. 1st Class Deon McKinzie, 620th CSSB, senior human resources noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “We are pretty much the landlord for those units that are coming into theater to perform their individual missions.”
The 620th is supporting the transportation and quartermaster units, but these units are not organic to them.
“A CSSB, under the modular Army, is designed to be able to accommodate any number of different types of companies tailored to a particular mission given to the CSSB,” said Lt. Col. Sean Campion, 620th commander. “There is a high expectation that you can be given any support company and be able to know and understand how to use it and make it fit into the bigger picture of the mission you’ve been given.”
While these units do not belong to the 620th, they have been working together on planning this exercise.
“We’ve had them for almost a year,” said Master Sgt. Richard Montgomery, 620th battle captain. “So we know what their capabilities are, we know the makeup of their units, equipment and personnel-wise. It wasn’t hard at all (for us to have mission command).”
Other sections had a few issues early in the exercise, but look at them as part of the process.
“Initially, it starts out as a rough process because we’re not on the same page initially,” said McKinzie. “Then as the exercise goes on and they figure out our needs and we communicate better, then the product that we request gets closer to what we need. Initially, with a unit you don’t work with on a regular basis, you have to go through those growing pains.”
While there was some growth, the exercise is providing a good base for the unit.
“We can create the procedures and lay out the roadmap but when you take that roadmap or those procedures and put them in a real-life situation, your environment will truly dictate what you are going to do,” said McKinzie. “The exercise and the scenarios do give you a base line, a foundation, of what you need to do so you’re not starting at ground zero trying to build up.”
The 620th mobilized to Iraq in 2010. Since their return they, have focused on Yellow Ribbon events and individual training.
“This is really the first battalion-level exercise the unit has had the opportunity to engage in since coming back from mobilization,” said Campion. “There are a lot of new troops here, a lot of individuals who weren’t part of the mobilization who are getting their first exposure to how a battalion headquarters is supposed to operate. That’s a big learning lesson.”
Campion isn’t the only one seeing the learning or the impact it is having on his troops.
“(The soldiers are) learning their jobs,” said Montgomery. “We have young lieutenants who have never done this before, we have a young chaplain who has never done this before, we have communication experts who have never done this before, a lot of our young soldiers have never done this before. So all of these things come together so they get the experience and really see the impact of what they do.”
While this is a learning experience, the soldiers seem excited to participate.
“The soldiers seem to be motivated to do their jobs, whether it’s guard duty, whether it’s cold out, early in the morning or late at night,” said Montgomery. “These soldiers, young soldiers especially, will surprise you with their commitment to the uniform.”