Virginia Guard Transportation Company gets head start on deployment training

Soldiers from the Virginia Guard’s Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group train on the U.S. Army’s Palletized Load System at Fort Pickett, Va. August 8 as part of their two week annual training. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group are using this year’s two-week annual training from Aug. 4 – 18 as an opportunity to get a head start on the skills they’ll need next year when they deploy to Afghanistan. The unit is currently trained and organized as a medium cargo transportation company but will train on the U.S. Army’s Palletized Load System prior to deploying, a system they were able to gain some experience with during annual training.

“To our understanding, these are the type of vehicles that we’re going to fall in on once we reach Afghanistan,” explained Sgt. Gary Wood, a team leader in the 1710th who acted as an instructor during the PLS training. “That’s why we’re taking the time now, these many months out prior to us leaving, to get the proper training that we’ll need once we get in country, so we can be professional and proficient in what we do.”

The PLS is a 60-ton vehicle equipped with five platforms – one on the bed of the truck and four on an attachable trailer. The platforms can be loaded with various types of cargo, including military vehicles or containers of equipment and supplies, and with a hook attached to and operated from within the truck, the platforms can be lifted and stowed on either the truck itself or on the adjoined trailer for transport from one location to another.

Unlike the U.S. Army’s other transportation vehicles, including its various semi-trucks, the PLS has an added off-road capability, according to Master Sgt. Albert Talbert, senior truck master for the 1710th Transporation Company. “The area we’re going into and the theater that we’re going to be supporting requires us to have a vehicle that can be taken off-road – sand, rocky mountains, what have you – and that’s what this platform truck is for.”

The PLS training included a classroom portion before the students had the opportunity to head outside and get their hands on the equipment where they practiced maneuvering platforms on and off the truck and coupling and uncoupling the trailer. The students also got behind the wheel and practiced driving the massive vehicles before heading off post on a 100-mile road test, according the Talbert.

“They’ll take them to learn to negotiate right turns and left turns on post at slow speeds and then on to the interstate where they’ll maintain a speed of approximately 55 miles per hour,” Talbert said.

The PLS instructors came from both the 1710th and from the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. Sgt. Willie Seward is both a truck driver in the 1710th Transportation Company and an instructor for the 88M Motor Transport Operator course at the RTI. “We had a bunch of motivated Soldiers and everyone is willing to learn,” Seward said.

In addition to the PLS training, the unit also worked on weapons qualifications for both individual and crew served weapons. They also conducted training in the gas chamber and on IED lanes, trained on their other vehicle, the M915, and conducted pre-mobilization training, including a series of briefings, to prepare the Soldiers for the upcoming deployment, according to Capt. Rodney Rhodes, commander of the 1710th.

The unit is scheduled to enter federal active duty April 1, 2013. The approximately 160 Soldiers that make up the unit will head to Fort Hood, Texas first, to conduct mobilization training, before heading on to Afghanistan where they are expected to conduct transportation support operations and convoy seucirty for military and host nation convoys. The mobilization is expected to last 12 months.

“I’m excited,” said Pfc. Joanna Bautista shortly after completing the coupling and uncoupling portion of the PLS training. “I’m ready to train and learn everything I need to learn before we go over.”

The 1710th Transportation Company last served on federal active duty in Iraq where they provided medium lift transportation capabilities that moved critical supplies from logistical support areas out to forward operating bases from May 2008 to February 2009. The unit traveled routes throughout Iraq and conducted more than 75 missions, traveling more than 900,000 miles.

“Without a transportation unit, equipment, supplies, food, you name it – it’s got to get from a supply point to the Soldiers in the field and that’s where the transportation comes in. We’re the ones who haul it,” said Talbert. “The Soldiers out in the field can’t perform their missions without us getting them the equipment and supplies they need.”

To view photos from the event, visit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157631047207720/