FORT POLK, La. –Transportation soldiers with the 167th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion loaded up their trucks with supplies to convoy outside the gate towards their hungry comrades in “the box” at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.
Their destination was Forward Operating Base Sword, one of the 13 bases established at JRTC to recreate an Afghanistan working environment. Along the route, a simulated improvised explosive device hit the convoy, causing a heightened sense of awareness for the soldiers as they scrambled to recover the disabled vehicle and continue their mission, ever determined to deliver the vital rations.
This was nearly a daily situation the soldiers of the 167th CSSB faced during the 21-day exercise at JRTC.
The 167th CSSB, headquartered in New London, N.H., is responsible for providing food, water and fuel for the participants of the largest training rotation here since World War II with more than 7,500 soldiers in play, simulating current real-world scenarios happening in Afghanistan.
However, The 167th CSSB raised the stakes a little more by not only fulfilling that mission, but also creating their own fully functional forward operating base to include a dining facility, sleeping tents and base security.
“We are trying to create an environment that has the likeness of any FOB in Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Staff Sgt. Connie Florendo, first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 167th CSSB. “We are also running 24-hour operations and security, so this is as close as the soldiers are going to get for deployed living conditions and lifestyle.”
After they established their FOB, they began their real-world mission of providing food, water and fuel to the soldiers in the field.
“We do up to four supply runs a day to the different villages and FOBs,” said Capt. Brandon Lewis, commander of 946th Transportation Company in Lewis, Del., acting as a subordinate unit to the 167th CSSB for the exercise. “With all the food, fuel and other supply requirements out in the field, our soldiers will get plenty of experience on the roads.”
On those roads is where the soldiers are susceptible to simulated improvised explosive devices, enemy ambushes and curious local nationals.
“Being in play in the scenarios in the field is good situational awareness for our soldiers. If you get attacked at Fort Polk, you can also get attacked in Afghanistan, so it teaches the skills to be fully combat ready while completing the mission,” said Lewis.
Even though the 167th CSSB and its subordinate companies are not currently scheduled to deploy, many found the training to be an investment for the future.
“A lot of people have the misconception that JRTC is the exercise you do before you deploy overseas. That is incorrect,” said Maj. George Cruz, commander of the 167th CSSB. “We need to use this training a few years before a deployment. That way, the lower enlisted understand the mission, and by the time a deployment does come, they will be the NCOs teaching the mission to the new generation of [newly enlisted soldiers].”