Logistics Troops Support Soldiers in Afghanistan

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan — Army Lt. Col. Dave Pre­ston and Army Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Gary Hold­er are the com­mand team for the 801st Brigade Sup­port Bat­tal­ion, a unit that pro­vides food, fuel, ammu­ni­tion and more for sol­diers assigned to the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team here.
“The chal­lenges here in Pak­ti­ka are the hard­est thing I’ve ever dealt with in my career, but our sol­diers make it easy,” Pre­ston said. “They care, and they bust their tails on a dai­ly basis.”

801st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division
Army Lt. Col. Dave Pre­ston, left, and Army Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Gary Hold­er serve as com­mand team at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Sha­rana, Afghanistan, for the 801st Brigade Sup­port Bat­tal­ion, 4th Brigade Com­bat Team, 101st Air­borne Divi­sion.
Cour­tesy pho­to
Click to enlarge

Pre­ston said he keeps his sol­diers “out­side the wire” much of the time, mak­ing sure the brigade’s out­ly­ing troop loca­tions have all the sup­plies that they need, in keep­ing with the battalion’s mot­to: “No Mis­sion Will Fail Due to Logis­tics.”

“Here at Sha­rana we’re liv­ing pret­ty good,” Pre­ston said. “But prob­a­bly five out of sev­en days of the week, there’s a mem­ber of this bat­tal­ion out on an out­ly­ing [for­ward oper­at­ing base or com­bat out­post] help­ing out.”

Pre­ston said he and Hold­er iden­ti­fied their two-word mis­sion focus as soon as they arrived in Afghanistan: sup­port for­ward.

Pre­ston said he and mem­bers of his staff vis­it the brigade’s 20-plus instal­la­tions posi­tioned through­out Pak­ti­ka province reg­u­lar­ly, spend­ing two days each week walk­ing the bases where sol­diers live and iden­ti­fy­ing ways to improve liv­ing con­di­tions.

“I ask the chain of com­mand when I leave, ‘What are your top three needs?’ ” Pre­ston said. “A lot of times, there’s a heli­copter there the next day with what they want.” Pre­ston said his bat­tal­ion has pro­vid­ed the small­er posts with show­ers and cold-stor­age con­tain­ers for food„ as well as ensur­ing reg­u­lar mail and fuel deliv­ery to even the most-remote loca­tions.

Med­ical teams also reg­u­lar­ly vis­it the small troop loca­tions, Pre­ston said, not­ing, “That keeps your com­bat pow­er for­ward [and] it builds trust. Every­body knows our providers, and they love our providers.”

“We had to gain cred­i­bil­i­ty by com­ing through,” he said. “Sup­port sol­diers kind of get a bad rap in an infantry brigade … we have to get out there and do every­thing we can for them, which is what we’ve done.”

Pre­ston cred­its his four com­pa­nies of troops with a long list of accom­plish­ments: deliv­er­ing 6 mil­lion pounds of car­go by heli­copter, pro­vid­ing force pro­tec­tion for sup­ply con­voys to areas acces­si­ble by road, man­ag­ing 9,400 cat­e­gories of sup­ply items, rebuild­ing an entire fleet of fork­lifts, run­ning the med­ical clin­ic, and sup­ply­ing fuel for vehi­cles and gen­er­a­tors.

“They’ve nev­er let us down when we’ve set a stan­dard for them,” Pre­ston said.
The lieu­tenant colonel said his battalion’s com­pa­nies have worked hard with their Afghan coun­ter­parts.

The med­ical com­pa­ny set up and con­duct­ed a ver­sion of the Army’s Expert Field Med­ical Badge com­pe­ti­tion with their Afghan part­ners, Pre­ston said.

The Afghan com­pe­ti­tion con­sist­ed of 15 tasks includ­ing treat­ing a patient under fire, lit­ter car­ry, evac­u­at­ing a patient by heli­copter, and a road march, Pre­ston said.

“They did that for the whole day,” he said. “They’ve nev­er done any­thing like that before — incred­i­ble train­ing that the sol­diers [have] had.”

Sim­i­lar com­pe­ti­tions are planned for the battalion’s oth­er two com­pa­nies, Pre­ston said. One of the com­pa­nies will run a truck rodeo with dri­ving tasks, he said, and the oth­er will con­duct a mechan­ics’ rodeo.

“The Afghans love com­pe­ti­tion,” he said. “So we set that up, and for a month pri­or our guys are train­ing them on all these tasks. So they get excel­lent train­ing and it’s fun for them.”

Pre­ston said he and his staff put a pri­or­i­ty on main­tain­ing high morale in the bat­tal­ion.

“We’re here 365 days, work­ing 18 hours‑a ‑day, sev­en-days-a-week,” he said. “So we do things like month­ly bar­be­cues … we’re in com­bat here and we don’t lose sight of that, but we try to keep an envi­ron­ment where it’s not seri­ous 24 hours-a-day.”

Hold­er agreed that main­tain­ing morale for the troops has been a high pri­or­i­ty dur­ing the deploy­ment. Mak­ing sure the sol­diers have inter­net access, so they can stay in touch with their fam­i­lies, “has been a huge morale boost,” he said.

“Some­thing as small as allow­ing them to wear [phys­i­cal train­ing uni­forms of shorts and T‑shirts] on Sun­days, when they’re not turn­ing wrench­es or work­ing on a fork­lift,” gives sol­diers a need­ed break, Hold­er said.

It’s also impor­tant to pro­vide the troops with enough rest time, Hold­er said.

“We’ve seen what hap­pens when you just try to work some­one for 365 days,” he said. “Some­where in the mid­dle, they just fall on their face. So we try our best to give them one day-a-week where they can relax a lit­tle.”

Pre­ston said he and Hold­er have been plan­ning the battalion’s tran­si­tion to its replace­ment unit for six months, stream­lin­ing con­tracts and clear­ing bro­ken down equip­ment from troop loca­tions to make the incom­ing unit’s job eas­i­er.

“It’s about being a pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tion,” he said. “Every­body com­plains about the way they get things hand­ed to them — well, we’re not going to give [our replace­ments] any­thing to com­plain about.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter