Transportation mission fills gap to make Canadian exercise possible

Soldiers from the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, unload Canadian Army Reserve vehicles Feb. 14, 2013, at Fort Pickett. Nearly 45 Soldiers drove more than 48,000 accident-free miles to Canada and back so the equipment could be in place for Exercise Southbound Trooper XIII. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers from the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, unload Canadian Army Reserve vehicles Feb. 14, 2013, at Fort Pickett. Nearly 45 Soldiers drove more than 48,000 accident-free miles to Canada and back so the equipment could be in place for Exercise Southbound Trooper XIII. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

GATE CITY, Va. — Soldiers from the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group drove more than 48,000 accident-free operational miles between Feb. 4 and 13, 2013, to transport wheeled vehicles and trailers for the Canadian Army Reserve to take part in Exercise Southbound Trooper and Southern Raider and Exercise Southern Raider at Fort Pickett. The mission provided realistic training for the Soldiers but also provided the Canadians with the vehicles they needed to conduct the exercise.

“Quite frankly, the exercise would not have taken place without the support of the Virginia Guard’s 1032nd Transportation Company,” said Lt. Col. Donnie Walsh, the deputy commander of the 36 Canadian Brigade Group and commanding officer for Exercise Southbound Trooper XIII. “With the training dollars provided for the exercise, we didn’t have enough to transport the vehicles we needed. If the 1032nd wouldn’t have been able to transport the vehicles, we would not have been able to conduct the exercise.”

Walsh commended the Soldiers from the 1032nd for the conduct of the mission. “They were professional, on time and got the vehicles here safely,” he said. “They were excellent.”

The Canadians paid for the fuel, lodging and food for the Soldiers who conducted the mission in an annual training status. Walsh estimated the cost savings to the Canadians was well over $400,000.

A total of 44 Soldiers driving 17 M915 trucks with 15 M872 trailers along with a wrecker and contact maintenance truck travelled more than 400 miles each day for three days to make the trip to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in southwestern New Brunswick. A major snowstorm delayed the mission for about three days, and the Soldiers had to navigate through challenging conditions after the snow to get back to Virginia.

“Any time we can get real-world missions, it is a great help to us,” said Capt. Brian Sansom, commander of the 1032nd. “This is why we exist, and conducting a line haul mission like this was a great service for the Canadians. The mission went extremely well.”

In addition to the behind-the-wheel training, the mission also gave younger Soldiers the experience of being away from home and what is involved with taking care of themselves for an extended period of time. This was the first time many of the younger soldiers had been outside the United States.

“I thought it was a good training experience for our troops,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Brummitt, the assistant convoy commander from Bristol. “We were able to get good drive time and there were learning lessons all the way around. We were able to see the sights, visit a different part of the world, but at the same time we were able to perform our mission and learn how to be a better truck driver.”

Planning for the mission began in November 2012 with a route reconnaissance between Fort Pickett and Gagetown to determine overnight stay locations as well as locations for feeding Soldiers and fueling vehicles.

The unit also had to conduct drivers training to get Soldiers qualified on the M915 truck, a 14-ton commercial-style transport vehicle used for the line haul missions. Soldiers from the 1032nd normally drive the M1088 truck, which is a five-ton truck that is normally used for shorter transport missions on all types of terrain.

“This mission gives our Soldiers a lot of confidence in their driving abilities,” said Maj. Tim Pillion, commander of the 1030th. “They were able to safely drive though less-than-optimal conditions, and it gave them confidence in their skills and the capabilities of the truck they were driving.”

The mission also provided valuable training for the 1030th’s staff. “We had to plan on a different level than what we are normally used to,” Pillion said. “It exercised our planning capabilities quite a bit.”

Working with the Canadians proved to be a very positive experience for the U. S. Soldiers. “The Canadians have been super great to work with and super friendly,” Brummitt said. “Anything we needed, they got for us. We couldn’t ask for a better group to work with, and I don’t think I would have ever met a Canadian if it wasn’t for this mission.”

Soldiers from the Rocky Mount-based 1173rd Transportation Company will drive the vehicles back to Canada during their annual training in late March.

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