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‘Vanguards’ conduct waterborne mission readiness exercise

POSTED: April 18, 2012 11:26 a.m.
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Two Army vessels played a pivotal role, April 11-12, in a waterborne mission readiness exercise for “Maintainers” with the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

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FORT STEWART, Ga. – It is often rumored that the Army has more ships than the Navy.

However the numbers play out, the ships the Army does have are vital to the force’s mission, allowing for the rapid transport of soldiers and supplies to areas they’re needed via the oceans of the world.

Two Army vessels played a pivotal role, April 11-12, in a waterborne mission readiness exercise for “Maintainers” with the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

The training exercise, which marked the first time 3rd Inf. Div. soldiers have partnered with watercraft operators and engineers with the 10th Transportation Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, from Fort Eusits, Va., began at the Port of Savannah and ended at the Blount Island Marine Corps Support Facility in Jacksonville, Fla.

Lt. Col. Nathan Swartz, commander of 703rd BSB, 4th IBCT, said the purpose of the exercise was to springboard his soldiers from individual training into a challenging, full-fledged, collective training mission.

As with any traditional mission readiness exercise, “Maintainers” were briefed the day before they were to execute. The soldiers learned which vehicles they needed to dispatch, what equipment¸ weapons and ammunition to bring, where they would be convoying too, and that they would be boarding Army ships.

What the soldiers weren’t told was that they would be landing in Jacksonville, Fla., where the soldiers would then have to plan and execute a convoy back to Fort Stewart, Ga.

“It really pushes the pace for them [and] it’s harder than what they’re really capable of, but that’s okay,” said Swartz about how his soldiers would perform during the exercise. “I want them to make mistakes now … [so they] go into next quarter [knowing] what we really need to improve on.”

Spc. Jessica H. Rowlett, a motor transport operator with Company A, 703rd BSB, said from the Port of Savannah that she didn’t know what to expect from the mission, but that she was excited to experience life on an Army ship and to fire crew serve weapons into the ocean.

Like many “Maintainers,” Rowlett wore a motion-sickness prevention patch slightly below her right ear as she prepared her vehicle for loading onto either of the ships—the Chickahominy, a 2011 Landing Craft Utility, or the Gen. Frank S. Besson Jr., a Logistics Support Vessel—docked beside her.

The motor transport operator said the mission had already been, and would continue to be, an effective platform from which to test her and her fellow soldiers’ readiness for whatever missions may come up in the future.

“It’ll give the new [soldiers] a chance to see how a convoy is [run] … how it’s going to feel to have their weapon on them all the time and … [used] to having orders coming down at the last minute,” Rowlett said. “That’s how it is when you’re deployed. You could be just on your down time and a mission comes up and you’ve got to go.”

Sgt. Brad A. Desporte, also a motor transport operator with Company A, 703rd BSB, agreed.

“As [motor transport operators] we need to be loadmasters, [to be] trained on each and every vehicle and to be able to rapidly deploy,” Desporte said. “The value of this training is … [completing the] checks and balances [that will tell us] where we’re at.”

 

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