by Sgt. Jason Lay, 145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 200 Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen, along with Soldiers from the Missouri Army National Guard, active-duty and Reservists came together this month by taking part in a multi-unit and multi-component transportation mission across the nation as part of Operation Patriot Bandoleer, a mission in support of Operation Golden Patriot led by the California Army National Guard involving more than 650 Soldiers.
With approximately 100 tactical and support vehicles, Oklahoma and Missouri Guardsmen departed from the Armed Forces Reserve Centers in Mustang, Oklahoma and Norman, Oklahoma and headed west to the Military Ocean Terminal in Concord, California. Upon their arrival and securing their equipment load in California, the Soldiers headed back to Oklahoma, covering more than 3,400 miles along the South Central and South Western region of the United States.
National Guard units taking part in the haul mission consisted of the Alpha Company, 700th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team; 1345th Transportation Company, 345th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 90th Troop Command; and Missouri Army National Guard’s 1221st Transportation Company and 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
“Our convoy consisted of command staff, semi-trucks, scout teams, support vehicles, supply trucks, mechanics and fuel tankers all in support of the mission who were capable of providing immediate attention to any concerns that may arise along the way,” said Capt. Douglas Paulson, operations officer with 700th BSB.
The morning the convoy was set to depart Oklahoma was a true test of each Soldier’s readiness, patience and ability. With temperatures in the low 30s and freezing rain, the Soldiers experienced some mechanical setbacks, such as frozen brake lines, frozen-over windows and vehicles struggling to start due to the freezing temperatures. Despite the complications, the Soldiers were able to move out without any major difficulty.
Some of the Soldiers were no strangers to conducting long-haul operations, having completed a mission safely that covered multiple states just last year.
“The Army often utilizes National Guard units to transport materials to and from various destinations,” Paulson said. “This is a great way to allow our Soldiers to gain experience in the profession while providing a cost-effective mode of transportation verses using a civilian transport company.”
For some Soldiers, however, this was their first large-scale mission, where they utilized their military occupation specialties and gained a wealth of experience.
“This is my first annual training, having joined the Guard less than a year ago,” said Pfc. Shelton Williams, a truck driver with Alpha Company, 700th BSB. “My father is a truck driver and I wanted to learn about logistics as well.”
Some of that experience came from the initial planning. For a large-scale operation such as this, months of planning, coordination with multiple units and training is required to ensure mission success.
“Operations command had to plan the mission dates, plan the route and alternate routes, establish how many trucks and the manpower it will take to complete the mission, and coordinate between the units that are participating in the mission, all while maintaining constant communication with the supplier to ensure the mission success,” Paulson said.
According to Paulson, primary and alternate routes were established both in the planning stages and during the mission to mitigate any potential route delays during their travel.
“We sent recon teams out to travel the routes to assess the road conditions, bridges and overpasses, weigh stations and rest areas along the way where we can stop as needed without having to deviate from the route and still be able to accommodate a convoy of this size,” Paulson said.
The haul mission overall was a success, even with the inclement weather conditions from the start.
“Despite all the obstacles we encountered, we met all our expected goals and were able to complete our mission without any major concerns,” said Capt. Collin McKinley, convoy commander for the mission. “Overall, this was a real-world stuff; our Soldiers had to move equipment from one point to the next, all while depending on our mission and support team being able to address vehicle concerns and providing fuel along the way.”