By Sgt. James Bunn
Utah Army National Guard
Whether moving across the country or making a tactical river crossing, a good logistics plan is the crucial difference between success and failure. Military operations have always hinged upon the movement of troops, weapon systems, and supplies. Western Strike 22 is a modern example of a major logistical success that starts with planning and ends with the arrival and departure of Soldiers, equipment, and supplies from all over the United States.
Maj. Nickolas Blackham, logistics officer with the 65th Field Artillery Brigade, Utah National Guard, said ensuring the success of the logistical movement starts with planning and understanding the needs of each unit. He further stated that logistical success starts before and continues through the mission and doesn’t end until it is complete.
“If you take a basic Soldier task, there are a lot of resources that go into accomplishing that basic task; where are they going to go; how are they going to get there; and once they get there, what do they need to accomplish the task,” he said.
There are challenges with any logistical movement and according to Blackham, the biggest challenge during Western Strike 22 was coordinating funding and movement across multiple states and across multiple guard units. The Utah National Guard was tasked with coordinating all the movement and logistical requirements of all the units participating in the exercise.
“The challenges in planning the logistics were trying to get the required resources from every other state and every other unit,” said Blackham. “Every unit has specific requirements, and in this instance all the funding—the transportation funding and resource funding—all the contracts and facilities got pushed over to the Utah Army National Guard. We had to reach out to each entity and grab those requirements and combine them and then push the funding requirements out to each state.”
According to Maj. Emilio Suazo, the executive officer for the 222nd Field Artillery Battalion, Utah National Guard, the success of a military mission, particularly in artillery, is tied to the success of the logistical operations. The Army’s future vision of a modern force requires rapid deployment of long-range precision artillery and making that happen requires effective logistics.
“As we've seen in modern global conflicts, the logistics chain is incredibly important based on the volume of fire that is expected in large-scale combat operations,” said Suazo. “Prioritizing modern long-range precision fires is number one on the modernization priority list. On the logistic side, that means we have got to get a lot of rounds down to the guns very quickly and efficiently.”
Suazo added that Western Strike 22 provides an opportunity to exercise large-scale logistical operations with multiple units in multiple locations.
“The logistics piece when we have so many units in one location pulling from one ammo supply point is critical,” said Suazo. “To this point, it’s required a lot of coordination that we don’t normally get at a battalion-level exercise. Western Strike 22 is an opportunity for us as a battalion to work through this process. So far, it’s been pretty smooth and we’ve been able to put rounds down range.”
Logistics isn’t just movement of people and ammunition, it is also providing basic needs like food, shelter and other supplies. When a unit arrives at a location all Soldiers need to be accounted for, assigned a place to sleep, and given meals. Accounting for the needs of Soldiers falls on the mayor's cell, a headquarters asset designated to provide essential support for items like beds and food for Soldiers during missions.
Successful training is tied to the mayor's cell according to Command Sgt. Maj. Jennifer Butler, the Western Strike 22 mayor cell noncommissioned officer in charge. The mayor's cell takes a lot of the logistical support challenges off the units during their missions.
“It takes all the logistical responsibility off the training units so that they can focus on their mission-essential tasks and training and helps them be more successful, while we are taking care of everything back here so they are not distracted,” said Butler.
Logistics and personnel management is not a one-person task, according to Butler. It takes support from knowledgeable Soldiers in administration and supply to properly manage thousands of Soldiers and supplies at exercises like Western Strike 22.
“The success of the logistical piece is having the right people in the right places and being able to multitask,” she said. “It’s a lot of planning and collaborating. We in the mayor’s cell are constantly in touch with the logistics office at the 65th Field Artillery Brigade, and we’re in touch with the logistics offices from the other battalions, and we’re all working together on plans and making sure we have everything we need in order to be successful.”
Avoiding an international failure during a military operation comes down to successful logistical planning. The dedicated and knowledgeable Soldiers from the Utah National Guard’s 65th Field Artillery Brigade made Western Strike 22 a successful training exercise for all of the units and Soldiers who participated.
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