News: 703rd Brigade Support Battalion ends successful deployment
Story by Sgt. Sarah Bailey
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, gathered for an end of tour awards ceremony, Oct. 24, 2013, on Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, marking the end of a successful nine-month deployment of conducting sustainment operations in Logar and Wardak provinces.
As a support battalion, 703rd BSB, or Task Force Maintain, is compromised of diverse companies that have unique missions, which began March 8, 2013, to support the 4th IBCT, or Task Force Vanguard, while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In order to successfully execute their mission, the Maintain leaders were well prepared for the potential demands and challenges before arriving in theater. “As a commander of a support battalion, neither myself nor my company commanders have the option to focus on one piece of the fight,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Nathan Swartz, the 703rd BSB commander. “We knew in order to be successful … we need to be adaptable and agile when adjusting to challenges, as well as execute all operations with a sense of speed in order to stay ahead of the ever-changing demands this deployment brought us,” said the Tullahoma, Tenn., native.
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 703rd BSB, is the heart of sustainment operations. The soldiers with the Sustainment Operations Center of HHC are the fighting force that ensures units receive food, fuel, ammunition, and medical support in order to successfully complete their missions. Sustainment Specialty Teams were created to travel to the outlying posts within the area of operation to gain an on-the-ground assessment and troubleshoot potential problems before they impacted the unit.
These soldiers worked around the clock to make sure all sustainment needs were met and were able to adapt to changes quickly in order to meet the needs of the brigade.
Soldiers with Company A were on the ground taking care of the personnel on Forward Operating Base Shank. From distributing water on the base, to conducting tactical convoy operations through Logar, Wardak, and Parwan provinces, the soldiers always performed their tasks with the utmost professionalism. Two platoons completed 65 tactical convoys, responsible for moving 1,052 twenty-foot containers of materials.
The company traveled more than 70,000 miles; escorted more than 765 host nation trucks; and were responsible for the retrograde of more than 1,100 twenty-foot containers in support of Task Force Vanguard.
U.S. Army Capt. Alan Sawyer, commander of Company A, and a native of Columbus, Ga., has been in command for 18 months and could not be more proud of his company. “Ten years from now, the soldiers of this company will be able to look back on this deployment and proudly know that our company spearheaded sustainment and retrograde operations in the TF Vanguard AO (area of operation) and beyond,” he said. “We will be proud of our flexibility and adaptability as a unit in order to successfully complete our mission above and beyond the standard.”
Company B, conducted maintenance services on 4,461 pieces of rolling stock and equipment for the unit’s that operated in the Vanguard area of responsibility. The soldiers supported 79 different unit’s and completed 2,803 work orders during the deployment and were also active in advising and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces by providing maintenance training on weapons, vehicles, and equipment. Company B also completed a major project of building a new motor pool and moving their operations to support the downsizing of FOB Shank.
This diverse company was always willing to take on a new challenge in order to support the battalion and the brigade.
“We never said no,” said U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Barchet, of Clifton, Va., and the Co. B commander. “There were more than just a few significant challenges along the way and we found the best approach was to face the challenges head on.”
The medical company, Co. C, provided medical care for all the soldiers in the brigade. The medical professionals of Company C saw patients on a daily basis and conducted incoming and outgoing medical evacuations of Soldiers in need of emergency treatment. They worked around the clock to provide wounded, injured, and sick soldiers the best care possible. Working along with a forward surgical team, they helped save many lives.
The Maintain Battalion also created standards and procedures for reduction and retrograde operations in theater. With the construction of the Joint Reduction Yard on FOB Shank, the Maintain Battalion created a one-stop shop where materials can be sorted, returned to the supply chain for consumption or demilitarized and removed from theater. This was a huge undertaking and the success is credited to the joint effort from U.S. Army, Navy, and Department of the Army Civilian personnel. The processes and procedures implemented by the maintenance battalion will help set the standards and guidelines for reduction operations theater-wide as coalition forces prepare to leave Afghanistan.
“The soldiers in this battalion never backed down from their mission and pushed hard until the end,” said Swartz. “I could not have asked for a better group of Leaders and Soldiers, and I hope they will look back on their accomplishments with a sense of pride for years to come.”