YAKIMA, Wash. – Behind every good combat unit in the U.S. Army is a support unit that provides everything they need to function and fight.
For 17th Fires Brigade, it’s the 308th Brigade Support Battalion. It furnishes battalions within the brigade with everything from hot meals to medical doctors.
Recently, as a means of testing their ability to set up a functioning brigade support area, the 308th BSB conducted a brigade support area “jump” at Yakima Training Center, Nov. 8.
The BSA “jump” is a procedure where units tear down their brigade support area, move to a new location and completely set up their operation again as quickly as possible. This may be required in a real life situation for a number of reasons, such as taking a key observational point or positioning in a good location to support other units. In training, it serves as great practice for everyone involved, said Capt. Lindsey N. Patterson, a Mukilteo, Wash., native and the 308th BSB operations and signal officer-in-charge.
“We did this last November, but it was just us out here,” Patterson said. “This is probably the first time that we’ve been able to have the rest of the brigade out here at the same time.”
What that means is that 308th BSB “Red Lion” soldiers could practice a jump where they’d have to physically support the other brigade elements as quickly as possible, turning the training into a real-life support mission. Because of that, they conducted the jump with all the procedures they would follow during an actual deployment.
“[Before we started], we had a quartering party come out and ensure there were no chemical threats in the area,” Patterson said.
The quartering party showed up to the potential site of the jump in full chemical protection gear, just as they would in a warzone. They positioned chemical detection devices at the four corners of the site and allowed the rest of the battalion to enter the area once they were certain there were no hazardous materials nearby, Patterson said.
A unit setting up at a new location could be vulnerable to a surprise attack, so, in addition, the Red Lions took measures to ensure no one could get the drop on them.
“There are people on the perimeter right now in firing positions and we have gun trucks on the four corners for maximum firepower in case an enemy were to come to us,” Patterson said.
With security elements in position, the battalion started building their support area.
They followed a timeline that established a fully-functioning support area within six hours of beginning setup. Various sections in the battalion were set up in a specific fashion so that anyone stopping by for support could go from station to station and get whatever they need, Patterson said.
“[If someone] comes to us, they circle around for vehicle maintenance, food, fuel, water,” added Patterson.
The one-stop-shopping design allows units to come to them, but the 308th BSB also pushes out supply trucks from this hub to travel around and resupply other battalions with logistics packages. These packages include daily necessities like water and fuel, as well as comforts such as hot meals and, if need be, ammunition.
For soldiers like Spc. Sarah B. Grayson, a combat medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 17th Fires Brigade, who is working with 308th BSB as direct support, the jump was perfect training.
Grayson, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, and the rest of the medical staff had a functioning aid station set up within a few hours. This wasn’t solely to “play along” if someone simulated an injury for the training scenario. They had to be capable of offering medical treatment as quickly as possible in case someone got hurt during the brigade’s training, she said.
For Soldiers like Spc. Daniel Welch, a utilities equipment repairer with Company B, 308th BSB, the jump helped establish skills he probably wouldn’t get to practice otherwise.
Welch is primarily used to working on maintaining and repairing air conditioners that help prevent heat exhaustion and fatigue during a deployment. With no high demand for air conditioning in the cold autumn weather, he was able to branch out and practice other valuable trades.
During the jump, he helped his section set up the distributors and generators that powered the battalion’s entire operation. After two years of getting this kind of training, he’s now proficient in how to work these important systems. This way, even if his duty was to repair air conditioners during a deployment, he could still help fix downed generators and operate power distributors in case the section normally in charge of those systems had injured personnel or was unable to get to the operating area, he said.
Creating power for an entire brigade support area is a high priority task. Power is used to set up communications systems and battle tracking systems—everything a unit needs to effectively communicate and support the brigade. Realizing this, Welch and his section are so prepared that they had the main power distributor positioned and ready in a matter of minutes.
Every section was working within the same mindset. While tearing down and setting up a brigade support area is a huge task to complete, 308th BSB was up and running again in time to conduct support operations as normal.
The first logistics package was sent out just hours after the jump began, and truck drivers with the 308th BSB were on the road doing their nightly supply runs, bringing hot meals to the other units in the brigade.
Although this was a training operation, the soldiers with the 308th BSB proved they have what it takes to support their brigade’s combat demands in austere environments in order to keep them fully functioning and fighting.