Operation Enigma Strike: testing the deployability of the 130th engineer brigade FEMs.
The next step--after building the FEMs based on the initial concept, as shown in the May article--was to conduct a test of the entire deployment process. While the FEMs from the 565th looked good on paper and in the motorpool, the battalion and companies did not have experience in the full-deployment process. Everything needed to be tested--from the soldiers and vehicles comprising the FEMs to the company and battalion-level staffs that would plan and execute the deployment. Deployment planning had not been done in the battalion since its mission to support Task Force Hawk in Albania in 1999, and a concept such as the FEMs had never been considered.
Since the battalion had recently been tasked with numerous support missions in the Balkans, this was a likely scenario to use for the FEM deployment exercise, named Operation Enigma Strike. The initial attempt was to find a mission in the Balkans with which to exercise the FEMs, but continuously changing dates and requirements forced the battalion to develop its own mission. The battalion staff went to work planning a Kosovo deployment, which would utilize the terrain-analysis FEM (Table 1) and the bridge-construction/reconnaissance FEM (Table 2, page 42).
The battalion executive officer led the staff through the military decision-making process, creating a realistic scenario and operations plan for the mission. The scenario was so well conceived and the staff so secretive about the mission that the soldiers in the companies believed that they were actually going to Kosovo for up to 30 days.
The real challenge though was in the resourcing and execution of this massive plan. The resourcing fell to the battalion S3 training officer and the battalion S4 supply officer. Since this was not an operational deployment, the 130th Engineer Brigade had to pay for the flight time, and genuine operational deployments to the Balkans were given flight priority. The initial intent was to fly to Kosovo, but restrictions on the number of forces precluded the units from doing so. The next best option was to deploy outside of Germany. Given the 120+ day time requirement to process these requests through the various Ministries of Defense, this option could not be used either. The remaining option--which was ultimately used--was a flight within Germany, from Ramstein Air Force Base (AFB) to Rhein-Main AFB.
Once a flight was established, a date for the FEMs to process through the USAREUR Deployment Processing Center (DPC) had to be secured. The next challenge came when the battalion discovered that the DPC required units to schedule a practice activation 120 days in advance. Since past interaction with the DPC was limited to the battalion operating the DPC or processing during operational deployments to the Balkans, this was mistakenly overlooked. Fortunately, the battalion was able to coordinate a shared processing time with another Hanau unit, 5-7 Air Defense Artillery, which was conducting a validation exercise during the same period.
As this drama unfolded and the plan solidified, the companies were busy preparing their soldiers and equipment for the deployment. The 38th Engineer Company (Medium Girder Bridge), which owns the bridge FEM, and the 320th Engineer Company (Topographic), with the terrain-analysis FEM, had much experience in deploying soldiers to the Balkans. The seasoned NCOs lead the newly arrived NCOs and soldiers through the preparation. The soldiers went through all of the necessary predeployment preparations--from briefing to physicals.
With the scenario in place, the aircraft purchased, and the DPC scheduled, it was time to execute the mission. The first stop was the DPC. Since so many units of various sizes and compositions deploy from the European theater, USAREUR has established a permanent DPC located at Rhine Ordnance Barracks near Ramstein AFB. The purpose of the DPC is to ensure that unit vehicles and equipment are ready to deploy by air. Units arrive at the DPC with individual readiness training and personnel deployment processing already complete. The DPC is staffed by two sets of personnel: permanent party and a rotational "pusher" unit. Pusher-unit duties are tasked to the major subordinate command in V Corps. It was during the transition exercise between two pusher units that the bat-talion was able to fit into the DPC's hectic schedule.
The key to moving through the DPC smoothly was a well-prepared soldier who was qualified to handle hazardous materials (HAZ- 12) and a unit movement officer (UMO). The first station (Station #1) of the DPC handles the paperwork for the vehicles: load plans, shipper's declarations, material safety data sheets, etc. The battalion's experienced HAZ-12 NCO, who had also served as the Station #1 NCOIC during the 565th's pusher-unit rotation, had all of the paperwork completed before arriving. It was also vital to have a UMO who had access to Automated Air Load Planners System (AALPS) software to complete the aircraft load plan. The battalion used the DPC's AALPS computer to input the load plan. The best scenario would have been to do this on the unit's own mobile computer, since it would have made things go more smoothly later in the processing.
Although the paperwork portion ran smoothly, the other part of Station #1, where the load plans were verified, proved to be another challenge. The terrain-analysis FEM is designed around an M997 ambulance high-mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV). The purpose is to provide the FEM soldiers "office space" for their computer systems and high-speed plotters. Unfortunately, secondary loads need to be tied down in order to fly, and the inside of the M997 doesn't offer any tie-down points. The unit was finally able to secure the load, but good tie-down points are essential for the sensitive equipment that the terrain-analysis FEM uses. Since the same office space was not needed for the bridge-construction/reconnaissance module, there were no tie-down issues for the M998 HMMWV used in that FEM.
Upon arrival at the "purple ramp" at Ramstein AFB for the Air Force joint inspection, the battalion was met with a few more challenges. The Air Force has different classifications for real-world missions and training missions. With those classifications come different requirements for paperwork and vehicles. For the Kosovo deployment scenario, the mission would have been considered a Chapter Three flight, which allows for three-quarters of a tank of fuel in the vehicles. However, since this was only a flight within Germany, it was classified as a special assignment air mission (SAAM)-channel flight--a routine flight. A SAAM-channel flight only authorizes half a tank of fuel in the vehicles.
The units had to drive back to Rhine Ordnance Barracks, defuel, and resubmit the hazardous-materials paperwork. This was the point at which the soldiers finally became aware that they were not actually going to Kosovo. Although disappointed that they were not deploying on a real-world mission, they were still excited to get the experience of going through all of the motions.
As loadmasters sometimes vary on their individual requirements, the aircraft load plans needed some adjustments. It took several tries to get the load plans to meet Air Force standards. At this point, t would have been beneficial to have the mobile computer with the AALPS on hand o make final adjustments to load plans, rather than relying on the DPC each time.
The biggest lesson learned from this deployment came as the vehicles were loaded on the aircraft. According to aircraft load manuals, loading an M997 ambulance on a C-130 requires a K-loader because of height restrictions. A K-loader allows the vehicle to be raised up like an elevator and driven straight into the aircraft. The problem lies in the fact that the FEMs are designed to deploy to undeveloped areas that will not have a K-loader on hand. After discussing the problem with the loadmaster during the flight from Ramstein to Rhein Main, he decided to try to unload the ambulance without the K-loader. It was a tight fit, but the ambulance unloaded on its own. However, the loadmaster explained that it may not fit on every C-130, and other loadmasters may not be willing to unload without the K-loader.
This was the first deployment test in the brigade for the FEMs. The 565th went through the complete process--from receipt of mission through all preparation for-deployment stages to flying the FEMs to their mission site. The test provided vital information to be included in the 130th Engineer Brigade's FEM deployment standard operating procedure.
The deployment of a bridge-construction/reconnaissance FEM was successful; however, the battalion will now take another look at the working environment for the terrain-analysis FEM. As stated earlier, the original concept was to use the ambulance as office space. This would allow the terrain team to concentrate on its job rather than worry about setting up and tearing down tents. At this point, the battalion must find another vehicle that can be used as an office that fits on a C-130, modify the ambulance, or develop a FEM that operates from tents.
Though there are still issues that need to be addressed in the deployability of the FEMs, this was a great multiechelon training event and a valuable learning experience at all levels. It was an opportunity for all involved to sharpen their skills in deployment processing. In addition, the planning horizon for training versus operational deployments varies considerably. The battalion staff is now better prepared to plan for both. The lessons learned during this mission will be used in the planning of future deployment exercises for the remaining FEMs of the 130th Engineer Brigade.
Terrain-Analysis FEM Personnel Equipment Terrain analyst 1 x M997 and SINCGARS 1 x SGT 81T20 1 x Laptop computer with printer Terrain analyst DTSS-L 1 X GP, small tent 2 x SPC 81T10 1 x GPS 2 x NVGs 1 x HP Kayak system with plotter 1 x TACSAT and Tele-Engineering 1 x Topo database 1 x Trailer-mounted tactical quiet generator (TQG) Aircraft requirements 1 x C-130 Concept - Provide an enhanced digital terrain-analysis capability to the IRF or any deployed force up to brigade-size; product list includes MCOOs, elevation tints, 3-D maps, overprirts, topographic line maps (TLMs), fly-throughs, etc. Table 2 Bridge-Construction/Reconnaissance FEM Personnel Equipment Combat bridge crewman 1 x M998 with SINCGARS 1 x SSG 12C30 1 x Laptop computer with printer Combat bridge crewman 1 x GP, small tent 2 x SGT 12C20 1 x GPS Combat bridge crewman 2 x NVGs 1 x SPC 12C10 1 x Fixed-bridging manual set 1 x TACSAT and Tele-Engineering Aircraft requirements 1 x C-130 Concept - Conduct bridge and route reconnaissance and supervise construction of Mabey Johnson/Balley bridges.
Major Simon is the S3 of the 130th Engineer Brigade, Hanau, Germany Previous assignments include S3, 565th Engineer Battalion, and assistant professor, United States Military Academy. MAJ Simon is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and holds a master's degree in environmental engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also a licensed professional engineer in Virginia.
Captain Jeszenszky commands the 502d Engineer Company (Assault Float Bridge), 565th Engineer Battalion. Previous assignments include S3, 5 65th Engineer Battalion; operations officer, Directorate of Public Works, 6th Area Support Group; and S4, Engineer Brigade, 1st Cavalry. CPT Jeszenszky is a graduate of the Engineer Captain Career Course and holds a master 's degree in engineering management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.
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|Author:||Simon, George; Jeszenszky, Christopher|
|Publication:||Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2002|
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