CAMP RAVENNA JOINT MILITARY TRAINING CENTER, Ohio (4/19/2013) — The 371st Sustainment Brigade, as it readies for its overseas deployment to Kuwait, returns less than 15 Soldiers from its last deployment in 2008-09 to Al Asad Airbase, Iraq.
“That's a pretty dramatic turnover in five years,” said Maj. Robert Lytton, the 371st Sustainment Brigade S4 and a Zanesville, Ohio, native.
The focus, then, as the 371st completes its pre-mobilization training tasks, is on team building.
“Teamwork is becoming a necessity to establish,” said Sgt. Maj. Rebecca Herzog, command sergeant major of the 371st Special Troops Battalion and a Columbus, Ohio, native.
Every pre-mobilization task is an opportunity to build cohesiveness. Under the direction of the Pre-Mobilization Training Assistance Element-Ohio, the 371st comes together task by task.
The brigade completed pre-mobilization tasks last October at Camp Grayling, Mich., and a make-up pre-mobilization training at the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center in March.
Pre-mobilization tasks included: urban operations, crowd control, individual movement techniques, dismounted and mounted land navigation, combatives and improvised explosive device detection training.
“We really bonded at crowd control without even trying,” Herzog said. “The group had the right kind of motivation, really wanted to do well. The leadership bubbled to the top. It's just getting better every day.”
The crowd control task required the 371st Soldiers to work as a team and handle a simulated civil disturbance.
“They need to keep a calm presence and a peaceful confrontation with that disturbance,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Utley, an instructor and noncommissioned officer-in-charge of crowd control for PTAE-Ohio, and a Columbus, Ohio, native.
Like many pre-mobilization tasks, crowd control culminates in a run phase battle drill exercise, following crawl and walk phases to bring all of the steps of training together for a team event.
“You definitely see improvement from the time they start practicing to the time they get on this (evaluation) lane,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Silc, an assistant instructor for the PTAE-Ohio and a Twinsburg, Ohio, native.
Silc, who ran the urban operations exercise at Camp Ravenna, said the pre-mobilization training is relevant, despite the 371st's projected administrative mission in a benign environment like Kuwait.
“Anytime you have to get out of a vehicle and move in an urban environment, this training applies,” Silc said. “There are villages and cities to go through in Kuwait, that (are an) urban environment, even though it's not a battlefield... (you still have to know how to properly employ) escalation of force.” The 371st Sustainment Brigade will be headquartered in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, but will also run warehouses at different locations throughout the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility. “Supply and logistics is our bread and butter,” Lytton said.
The 371st Special Troops Battalion has a separate mission to oversee postal, finance and human resource operations within the area.
The battalion will also be headquartered in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, but will have teams throughout the region — in Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar and all over Kuwait.
About 80 personnel in the brigade will work as part of a support operations (SPO) team, responsible for external connectivity of the brigade, working logistical items like ammunition and fuel.
In preparation for the mission, members of the 371st in February travelled to Fort Hood, Texas, worked with and built relationships with the unit they will work under when they get to Kuwait.
Again, team building is a primary concern, so the 371st leadership developed exercises outside of traditional pre-mobilization training to develop chemistry.
The unit planned a four-lens team building exercise in late March at Camp Atterbury, Ind., to better understand one another's temperament and perspective, and at Fort Hood the 371st will conduct a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) examination.
“People know their jobs, but being able to work with people, finding their strengths and weaknesses, finding your own strengths and weaknesses and then working toward the goals is critical,” Herzog said.
The 371st asked individual Soldiers from non-mobilized units to fill out its ranks as “cross-levels.” Some are still being cross-leveled.
“Very interestingly enough, there are very few people who are going with the battalion who are actually assigned to the battalion; most of us are cross-levels or new to our position,” Herzog said.
About a third of the unit's Soldiers are cross-levels, Herzog said.
“It takes practice to build teamwork, especially if they're not organic to each other,” Silc said. “A lot of these people have been taken from other units and thrown into that big pot. This time right now is where they're starting to build that team cohesion.”
“What I've learned as a cross-level is that relationship building is the key,” Herzog said.
Although, the 371st is taking a great number of Soldiers new to the brigade to Kuwait, the group is not lacking experience.
The 371st is now a very senior-ranked organization, Lytton said.
Kuwait is a popular deployment destination. Many Soldiers have volunteered, and, as a result, many remain “on the bench” hoping for a slot to open so they can deploy.
“There are a lot of younger Soldiers who want to support their country,” Herzog said.
Many Soldiers are willing to change military occupational specialties in order to deploy, many have done so multiple times for multiple deployments.
“That's the kind of patriot you want to work with,” Herzog said.