Va. Guard transporters haul millions in equipment for 29th ID

 Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group unload approximately $20 million worth of equipment at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Dec. 8, 2015, after hauling it back from Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where it was used by the 29th Infantry Division during their Warfighter Exercise. The transporters conducted the operation during their annual training, heading first to Camp Atterbury to load the gear onto 39 military vehicles and then driving the 600 miles back to Fort Pickett before heading north and offloading all the equipment at Fort Belvoir, with the help of the 29th ID. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)


Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group unload approximately $20 million worth of equipment at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Dec. 8, 2015, after hauling it back from Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where it was used by the 29th Infantry Division during their Warfighter Exercise.  (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

FORT BELVOIR, Va. – Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group hauled and offloaded approximately $20 million worth of equipment for the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division as part of their two-week annual training period, held Nov. 30 – Dec. 14, 2015.

Nearly 100 of the unit’s Soldiers participated in the mission, driving 39 military vehicles from Virginia to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where the 29th ID recently conducted and completed a Warfighter Exercise. After two days loading Humvees, generators, satellite trailers and massive military tents, the group headed back to Virginia, first to Fort Pickett and then, in four separate serials over two days, on to Fort Belvoir to offload the equipment.

“The 1710th deployed two years ago to Afghanistan, so we have a lot of experience in the unit,” explained 1st Lt. Jami Beth Clements, one of the company’s platoon leaders and the convoy commander for the mission. “We’ve also gotten in well over 20 new Soldiers, so they’re straight out of school and they’ve done some short convoys around the area on [drill] weekends, but they haven’t done a real mission, they’ve never loaded down equipment, they’ve never driven with a load, so this gave them that opportunity.”

Clements explained that special care was taken to ensure that each of the newer, less experienced drivers were paired with a more experienced driver in each of the vehicles. This allowed the Soldiers new to the unit to learn from veteran driver during a real-world mission.

The mission, and the plan to conduct annual training in December, happened on relatively short notice. The Soldiers heard rumors about the potential for the mission over the summer, according to Clements.

“We were all very interested because it was a real mission, and that’s what we’re designed to do, is line haul,” Clements said. She explained that in October, the unit polled the unit, seeing who would be available to conduct the mission. “We had a lot of people who really wanted to, but they were enrolled in school and this was right at the end of the semester so they had exams and things.”

After assessing the unit member’s availability and coming up with almost 100 Soldiers available for the mission, the unit started planning and, in just a few short weeks, executed the mission.

Clements said the trips to and from Indiana were relatively uneventful, with only a few easily-corrected issues, like a flat tire the transporters quickly changed on the way to Fort Belvoir.

“You can train all day, but in training you don’t have time constraints and you don’t have real world situations, like the traffic,” Clements said. “In a real world mission, the leadership and the Soldiers have to react on the spot. And then, if you’ve done your job well as a leader, then that’s when you can see that training.”

While the mission to haul the 29th ID equipment was the primary focus for the 1710th during the annual training, the days after the mission were spent catching up on administrative tasks, conducting recovery operations on the vehicles and making sure all the equipment was properly returned.

“It has really been a team effort on the part of the 1710,” Clements said. “Everyone worked together. It’s really brought the unit together and it’s been the teamwork of the 1710 that’s made this successful.”

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