Story and photo by Spc. Andrew Ingram
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
UDAIRI RANGE, Kuwait — Soldiers stepped away from their traditional combat-related roles and learned how to provide humanitarian aid during the “Raider Hope” exercise at Kuwait Naval Base and Udairi Range, July 14-17.
The 4th Brigade Support Battalion leadership provided the training to test its Soldiers’ capabilities during missions of mercy, said Lt. Col. Nicole Lucas, commander, 4th BSB, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
“This exercise ensures that the ‘Packhorse’ Battalion has the ability to deploy quickly, operate in an austere environment and provide support capabilities that no one else in the region may be able to provide,” Lucas said. “While the combat brigades here focus on decisive action, my battalion has some unique military capabilities that could be used in the event of a natural disaster or humanitarian emergency.”
Augmented by troops and equipment from the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, and 1st Special Troops Battalion, the Packhorse Soldiers traveled by convoy to KNB to load their vehicles and cargo onto logistics support vessels: watercraft capable of carrying dozens of vehicles across thousands of miles of ocean.
“We are conducting roll on roll off, or what we call roll-roll operations,” said Spc. Donald Shultz, crewmember, U.S. Army Vessel SP/4 James A. Loux, 1099th Transportation Detachment, 7th Sustainment Brigade. “Simply put, we sail into a sandy pier and vehicles drive onto the vessel. This operation displays our unique capability to sail up to virtually any improved dock or sandy beach and load or unload cargo.”
Shultz said the LSV crews enjoy demonstrating their capabilities to other units, said Shultz.
“Most Soldiers don’t even know that we exist, but we are an excellent resource for getting equipment to just about anywhere in the world,” he said.
The genesis of the LSV dates back to smaller troop transports 4th Infantry Division Soldiers used during the D-Day assault on Normandy.
The LSV’s versatility is ideal for the humanitarian missions the Packhorse Soldiers trained for during Raider Hope, said Capt. Tim Sechrist, operations officer, 4th BSB.
“This is the ideal real-world way to get our equipment anywhere in the Middle East quickly,” Sechrist said. “We learned the logistical aspect of loading and unloading our vehicles onto the vessels, which is important, but we also built relationships with the harbor master and crews down at KNB, which will be invaluable in the event of a real-world mission.”
Battalion and brigade leaders planned the training event carefully, researching exactly what the battalion would need to support most humanitarian operations, Sechrist said.
“We aren’t designed to be a long-term fix, but we have certain capabilities such as health care, engineering and water treatment that can deploy more quickly than other organizations.” Sechrist said. “In the event of a real humanitarian crisis, we would need elements to help provide security and specialized tasks, while BSB Soldiers would focus on providing aid. For that reason, we decided to integrate other brigade elements into the exercise.”
After unloading their vehicles and cargo from the LSVs, the Packhorse Soldiers traveled by convoy to Udairi Range where they constructed a temporary battalion headquarters, as they would while assisting during a humanitarian crisis.
Lucas said solid planning and “outstanding execution” by Soldiers at every level resulted in a successful mission.
“It’s a unique experience to undergo such a large-scale training exercise while deployed,” she said. “We learned that, with the right leadership and proper risk management, we can train to a very high standard in the face of a very rigorous environment.”