CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait, Aug. 30, 2017 —
What do you do when you don’t have the range you need? If you’re 215th Brigade Support Battalion “Blacksmiths”, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division you build one.
The BSB, which provides for the logistical needs of six subordinate battalions, conducted a convoy live-fire range at the Udairi Range complex from Aug. 13 to 18. Before they could conduct the range they had to figure out how to make it as realistic as possible.
“The challenges to doing [a convoy live-fire] are being able to get your mid-convoy weapons platforms into the fight,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Gallagher, the battalion’s master gunner. “Most convoy live-fire exercises restrict firing platforms to the lead and rear gun trucks. So, what we did is we created a routed pattern that allowed the mid-gun platforms to get into the fight.”
Most standard logistics package convoys have four gun trucks — one lead, one rear and two in the middle. Because of the nature of the mission and depending on the operating environment, convoys almost always have to travel in column formation. This creates a problem on a standard tank range, which is all the BSB had at its disposal.
Tank ranges typically run in one direction, north-south or east-west, said Hilary Genevish, operations officer for the Blacksmiths. “We needed a range that allowed us to exercise all of our gun trucks. We needed one with switchbacks.”
The team sat down and drew out exactly the type of pattern they wanted. It was important that the route was able to accommodate the four gun trucks as well as the three to four logistics trucks in the convoy to include a wrecker and a fuel truck.
“We created a crossing pattern on the range – so as the convoys travelled up the traditional path of the range to a [battle position], they would make a left and cross the range,” Gallagher said. “In order to facilitate that, we had to work with range control and the range development teams to cut roads for us, because those roads didn’t exist prior to this.”
According to Gallagher this design not only helped open up more targets for the trucks by allowing them to get on line and out of the column formation, it also worked their communications procedures.
“The crews improved their communication and proficiency from Table II to XII,” said Staff Sgt Jamie Daniels, distribution platoon sergeant assigned to Fox Forward Support Company. “All [convoy protection platforms] were able to communicate in a clear and concise manner.”
The design also allowed them to conduct a tactical task based on transportation corps battle drills at each turn. The convoy had to conduct tasks such as; hasty recovery of a vehicle, react to sniper fire, react to ambush, react to an IED, conduct operations in a chemical environment and evaluate and transport a casualty.
“The training objective was to train logistics convoy commanders to fight their convoy onto a logistics release point,” Gallagher said. “If they don’t know how to defend themselves when they are moving commodities from place to place, they’re just going to become targets.”
The battalion consists of six forward support companies, along with Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie companies, all tasked with 24/7 round-the-clock missions.
The BSB used the crawl-walk-run framework and began training crews up to four months out. They would first train them on mounting their weapons system and hitting targets, then moving and coming to a halt and hitting targets and finally engaging targets while moving.
“Every opportunity for live fire is a win for the company,” said Capt. Michael Canty, commander of Delta FSC. “This is the most complex live fire event that the company executed this fiscal year, and it was a great capstone event for us.”
Company commanders observed the convoys in motion from the range tower while the battalion talked them through the live-fire run. The commanders later attended the after-action review where they took those lessons learned and used it as forward motion to train their companies.
“Synchronizing movement and fires is a complicated task, much different in execution than in digital simulation,” Canty said. “The training helped us 'see ourselves,' and allowed for an [after action review] that we'll use going forward to train areas where we can improve.”
Other sustainment units under U.S. Army Central are already lining up to use this new range facility, and 215th BSB is leading the way in helping them develop their plans.
“We’ve created the legacy to pass off to sustainment personnel who come after us, so they can have the same type of training,” Genevish said. “The end result is now we have eight separate companies that are confident in how to maneuver down the road into enemy territory and know how to defend themselves.”