FORT DRUM, N.Y. — More than 1,600 Soldiers of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and more than 1,000 pieces of their heavy equipment traveled to Fort Drum, N.Y., June 6, 71 years after the brigade landed on Omaha Beach. In the largest movement of brigade assets since World War II, the Staunton-based 116th IBCT Headquarters and five of its battalions made the long haul to participate in the first Multi-echelon Integrated Brigade Training run by First Army Division East, a division responsible for training Reserve and National Guard troops ahead of their ready year.
“Mostly we deploy battalions in the state of Virginia, the brigade as a whole hasn’t deployed since 1942,” said Maj. Corey Stavinoha, operations officer of the 116th IBCT. “This exercise proved that we are a force capable of moving quickly and rapidly to a fight if need be.”
Planning and executing the movement of these troops and equipment was a huge logistics undertaking for the brigade staff that provided valuable real world experience. It also took money to make all this happen, more than the unit’s normal operating budget. But the resourceful brigade staff put forth a solid training plan to the National Guard Bureau for additional funds and tapped into standing programs to save money.
“Our officer corps and NCO corps at the planning level in the battalions and brigade, the support operations section of the 429th BSB were very critical in getting us up here,” said Col. William Coffin, commander of the 116th IBCT. “It showcases our ability to plan an operation with a lot of unknowns, for example four months out we didn’t know if we would have the funds to come up here, then make adjustments in that short period of time to get all our equipment up here.”
Fifteen 116th IBCT Soldiers volunteered to come to Fort Drum in advance of the brigade, in order to unload vehicles, generators, and other large equipment from more than 200 tractor trailers. Those Soldiers worked 24/7 shifts to unload and inventory almost 500 pieces of equipment over 12 days. They also refueled 350 pieces of equipment to ensure the brigade could move out to the field as soon as they got on ground.
While most of the equipment was driven up by commercial contractors, Army Reserve Soldiers from California, Florida, and North Carolina moved all the equipment for Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, as part of an Army program called Nationwide Move. The program is an annual Army Reserve approved functional training exercise, designed to provide Reserve Component transportation units with valuable, realistic training by conducting real-world operations in support of continental United States activities. Utilizing the program saved the brigade approximately $100,000.
“Deploying the brigade’s equipment and Soldiers in its entirety is a training objective in and of itself and we mastered that,” said Coffin. “We moved the unit more than 500 miles, one way, by numerous modes of transportation, convoys, commercial line haul, military line haul, commercial air, military air, and buses. Everything came together on the 6th of June to bring the whole brigade here to Fort Drum.”