FORT POLK, La. — Six military vehicles left Forward Operating Base Anvil for a combat outpost at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., Friday afternoon to provide essential supplies for soldiers stationed at a mock Afghan village.
“It’s only about a 45-minute drive,” said Capt. Mark Rodriguez, commander of the Forward Support Company, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. But to ensure soldiers remain safe, the route takes longer, he said.
To prepare for a deployment to Afghanistan this summer, about 3,200 “Black Jack” Brigade soldiers are spending this month at the training center operating just as they will when downrange.
During the drive, soldiers stop and check for suspicious activity, then move at a decent speed while scanning the areas so they’re not blindsided.
“You really don’t want to cross if they’re interrogating for (a roadside bomb) if they think something is possible,” he said. “They kind of halt everything to make sure everybody is safe.”
During the training, soldiers work long days — about 18 to 19 hours daily for Rodriguez. And while they’re in a new environment away from their norm, Rodriguez said training has been beneficial overall. Friday was the third day of weeklong force-on-force training. The brigade left Fort Hood in late April and is expected to return by the end of May.
“(Skills) have increased since day one until now,” he said. “Everybody is moving a little faster.”
One skill logistics officers are working on is communicating with leadership to make sure they identify what supplies each soldier needs. This is important when providing logistical support, he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Lionel Weems, 4th Squadron, said his task is mainly to support soldiers who go out on missions and make sure they have everything they need, from fuel and parts for vehicles and equipment to food, water and medical supplies.
Rodriguez said leaders keep inventory of the soldiers’ supplies in the field and determine how quickly to provide support.
“We can provide them will all the stuff that they need,” he said. “If they have 12 boxes of something, then we know that they don’t need it, but if they’re down to one (box), we know we need to push it to them so they can have more.”
While coordinating convoys to make sure about 450 soldiers in the squadron are sufficiently supplied, Weems said the biggest difficulty logistics officers face is predicting what the units might need on their missions.
“(We want to) stay ahead of the curve because it’s a little bit harder to get things once you get in another country,” Weems said. “You can’t just run to Walmart.”
Weems, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, said he hopes to get out of the office more during this deployment so he can see the results of his efforts to help the soldiers take care of and protect themselves.
“It’s kind of hectic and ... it’s not just the same old thing,” he said. “I enjoy it.”