Life support sustains the mission at XCTC

Spc. Henderson, information technology specialist, takes on an additional duty to refill a “water buffalo,” essentially a bulk water-storage tank on a trailer, while supporting the 347th Regional Support Group’s annual training in Fort Hood, Texas. Henderson, who also tests and sanitizes water supplies three times a day, has been a do-it-all for the brigade helping out with the many life support functions sustaining the nearly 200 Soldiers in the area.

August 8, 2019 (FORT HOOD, Texas) — “Above all else we make sure Soldiers have safe water, safe facilities and their essential needs are met,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Merrill, brigade logistics non-commissioned officer. “We try to give Soldiers everything they need for a successful event, and get it to them when they need it.”

Merrill, as part of the 347th Regional Support Group’s sustainment section, helps coordinate life support for nearly 200 Soldiers working and living in Tactical Assembly Area Grant, a training area a few miles northwest of garrison of Fort Hood, Texas. 

Sustainment comes in many forms, each crucial in its own way. 

Fuel-runs keep the generators humming, necessary to power the tactical command post and living areas positioned off Fort Hood’s power grid. Water is field sanitized in bulk water storages, keeping it fresh for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. Food, shipped regularly as unitized group rations, is prepared by a trained and motivated mess crew – bolstered by an additional four cooks from the Wisconsin National Guard’s 1158th Transportation Company – ensuring two hot meals a day.

All of this activity generates literally a ton of waste, including trash, cardboard and gray water, which the sustainment cell maneuvers to the appropriate place using forklifts and mobility trucks. 

This self-sustaining, central hub created and maintained by the 347th RSG is enabling a higher mission – support of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, executing its Exportable Combat Training Capabilities exercise. On top of its many roles, to include troop transport, medical support and contracting, the 347th RSG acts as a warehouse distribution point. With four refrigerated trucks, units can draw fresh fruit, bread milk and ice (affectionately known as meal enhancements).

“Ice may not be a necessity, but it’s one of the few luxuries Soldiers are getting during this type of event,” Merrill said. “Having this distribution area frees-up 1st ABCT Soldiers, so they can focus on their training.”

Lastly the distribution hub acts as a parking lot for equipment that can support the 1st ABCT, such as light sets used when training outside of a tactical environment, and forklifts to move palatalized supplies and equipment from one truck to another.

And in the very near future, the sustainment cell has another trick up its sleeve for the 200-or-so Soldiers occupying TAA Grant – a shower tent to round out life support in the form of personal hygiene.

“There’s not much we can’t do to sustain the fight from where we’re at,” Merrill said. “We’ll work a little bit harder if it makes these training events more successful, and when someone asks we’re searching for a way to make it happen.”

Story and photo by Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Loch