FORT DEVENS, Mass. - Soldiers of the 542nd Quartermaster Company, headquartered in Fairview, Pa., received hands-on training with some of the Army's newest equipment at the Base Camp Integration Lab this summer.
Force Provider Modules are the latest in containerized units that include nine air-supported tents, one of which is used for dining.
"I definitely find it helpful," said Pfc. Miranda R. Ostrofsky, of Munson, Pa., a shower/bath and laundry specialist, about the training. "We now have an idea of what we are actually doing. We get to use a lot of things we don't have access to back home."
At BCIL, soldiers learned how to assemble and disassemble the new air-supported tents, which aim to replace the old wood- or metal-framed tents.
"This one uses an air compressor to fill the beams," said Spc. Nicholas E. Pire, of Bradford, Pa., a food service specialist who went through the training here. "It's much quicker and much more reliable than the old I-beam tents."
These tents have air-filled beams that are easily replaceable without having to take the whole tent down.
"You just deflate the beam, put it back in, no problem," said Pfc. Tasha A. Baranchak, of Clearfield, Pa., a water treatment specialist. "It's cheaper also in the long run."
Baranchak believes it's also easier to store and carry, has a better air conditioning system, and takes less effort and manpower to set up.
The camp can hold up to 300 soldiers, and the new dining facility is capable of holding all 300 at once. Unlike the previous Mobile Kitchen Trailers, this kitchen features newer equipment that runs completely on electricity.
"I think it's a lot easier to use, less things to worry about," said Spc. Bethany J. Highum, of Jamestown, N.Y., a food service specialist, referring to the concern about fuel with the MKT's. "It's new. It's different. We all can't fit in it, but we take shifts. We work together and work around each other. It's definitely fun. It's a new experience - good hands-on learning."
Along with the food service specialists and water treatment specialists, shower and laundry personnel, maintenance personnel, and facility support personnel such as engineers, generator mechanics, air conditioning mechanics, plumbers, and supply and administration personnel all train side-by-side in the 542nd QM Company.
"It's good to have us up here working together with different platoons as a company and learning everything all over again or just reviewing," said Baranchak. "It's very important, so if we do get deployed, we know what we are doing, and we know each other. We can work as a team, and we can get the job done. If we ever get deployed, it will be really smooth going. We can especially learn how to work as a team."
Deployment is always inevitable when serving in the Army Reserve.
"It puts us in a state where we have to be always available as a unit," said Wisniewski. "At a moment's notice, we can be called to go anywhere to support any type of mission. So, having this training here is key in updating our soldiers' skills on this equipment."
"I believe all the training we do for this unit is helpful," said Pire. "If we ever get mobilized or deployed, then we will be ready for it."
Annual training is just the beginning for the 542nd QM Company and the Force Provider equipment.
"Recently the 316th (Expeditionary Sustainment Command), the 542nd and the 377th (Theater Sustainment Command) have been working with the PM's office at Natick," said Wisniewski. "We've come to an agreement to secure one of the Force Provider Modules for the 542nd to take back with us to train on at home station, so that the skills we are learning during this annual training, we can maintain throughout and continue to build on those."
"Also we'd have the availability of a 150-person module in case of an emergency at some point, it will be available for us to use instead of having to pull out of the Army's preposition stock," said Wisniewski. "That's been a very key piece of not only the training that is going on now, but the sustainment of that training throughout, so that these skills, that not only what soldiers are learning here, but any future soldiers that come into the unit can be trained on it without having to come all the way here to Fort Devens."