CAMP SHELBY, Miss. – When it comes to providing mobilized Reserve Component soldiers with the most realistic and up-to-date training available, First Army Division East usually can provide subject matter experts from within. Recently, however, leaders reached out to Kuwait for assistance in training on retrograding equipment.
Members of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion, 27th Brigade Combat Team, N.Y., received a late-notice mission change while mobilized at Camp Shelby, Miss. Their new mission, to support the Operation Enduring Freedom Central Command Material Retrograde Element in Afghanistan, was a new one for First Army Division East trainers. They requested and received training from the Redistribution Property Assistance Team Academy, run by the 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, Kuwait.
The 541st CSSB developed the RPAT course curriculum based upon its firsthand knowledge of retrograde operations overseas, according to Lt. Col William Cain the commander of the 541st CSSB. “The 541st CSSB had been tasked to Kuwait to set up RPAT operations,” said Cain. “We had eight locations throughout Iraq and 12 mobile locations.”
The need for training on the RPAT became very obvious in the wake of the massive retrograde operations required with the drawdown of Iraq after more than a decade of combat. The 541st CSSB developed the RPAT Academy to train units on the new systems and methods to transport and track equipment.
“The support of the 541st CSSB was essential to prepare the 27th BSTB for their mission,” said Col. Dale Kuehl the commander of the 177th Armored Brigade. “The opportunity we had to leverage the expertise they attained during their operations in Iraq and Kuwait has greatly enhanced the capabilities of the 27th BSTB.”
The 23-member RPAT team trained more than 200 soldiers from the 27th BSTB, in a five-day training cycle.
“To get that many students trained in the time allowed, we had to break it down to 50 students per class,” said Pfc. Portia Madrigal, customer service representative from the RPAT team. “Then we had to complete four iterations of each class. It wasn’t easy, but we are used to working hard.”
Sgt. 1st Class Tissie Dora transportation liaison with 541st CSSB gave the class on loading rolling stock.
“Everything you do in the rolling stock yard must be done in a safe manner,” said Dora. “The ground guide and the driver of the vehicle must have eye-to-eye contact at all times. The minute they don’t have that eye-to-eye contact they must stop movement.”
Everyone in the yard is a safety, regardless of rank, explained Dora. It is important when loading and unloading Army vehicles that everyone is paying attention. It only takes a moment for something to go very wrong.
Training focused primarily on property accountability. When deployed, the 427th BSB will be responsible for ensuring redeploying units turn in theater provided equipment, such as military vehicles, ammunition, communication and medical equipment, before they leave their assigned area of operations.
Once equipment is turned in, it is put back into the wholesale system, and redistributes it to other units in need or send it stateside, said Cain.
“We have been able to receive and relieve units of accountability of tens of thousands pieces of rolling stock and hundreds of thousands of pieces of non-rolling stock.” said Cain, “Valued in excess of $7 billion, during the duration of our deployment.”
Staff Sgt. Gene Taylor the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Redistribution Property Assistance Team in Iraq thinks this stateside training will allow the 27th BSTB to hit the ground running.
“When we got on ground it took us two-to-three weeks to get the process down,” said Taylor. “They (the 27th BSTB) will already have a grasp on the process; it will only take them a week to get their stuff in place, and run with their mission.”
The 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, New York National Guard were the first to receive such training stateside, according to Taylor.
“The hands on training after the classroom part was invaluable,” said Spc. William Neal with B Battery 27th BSTB. “Overall I would have to say it’s the instructors’ first-hand knowledge of the operation and mission that we will be doing that benefits us the most.”
“The bottom line is that the RPAT academy gives the soldiers what they need to be productive once they hit the ground,” said Cain. “The course is a living course it’s not something that gets stale overtime.”
“We stay in contact with all of the students that attend the course, so they can give us feedback on anything they think should be added to the course,” said Cain. “They also let us know if something had no value, so we don’t waste time training skills they don’t use while in theater. That is the key aspect of the Redistribution Property Assistance Team Academy.”