29th ID Soldiers build tent structure for training exercise

Soldiers with the 29th Infantry Division piece together a temporary floor as one of the final components of a deployable rapid assembly shelter Wednesday. The 29th Inf. Div. will be using the shelters in an upcoming deployment certification exercise. (Photo by Sgt. Kelly R. Gary, 29th ID Public Affairs)

Soldiers with the 29th Infantry Division piece together a temporary floor as one of the final components of a deployable rapid assembly shelter Wednesday. The 29th Inf. Div. will be using the shelters in an upcoming deployment certification exercise. (Photo by Sgt. Kelly R. Gary, 29th ID Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, TX – The art of war is complex, and involves thinking one step ahead of the adversary. That’s why deploying Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division recently banded together to build a complex, self-sustaining, expeditionary platform, called the Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter, commonly referred to as “DRASH,” as part of an upcoming certification exercise.

“This is called the TOC Mahal,” Sgt. Maj. Joel Fix, Operations Sergeant Major for the 29th Inf. Div. said jokingly as he used the military acronym for a Tactical Operations Center. “[Many] Soldiers have never seen this shelter system or anything resembling it.”

The platform is an interconnected series of large tents that function as a mobile division headquarters. This mobility enables the 29th Inf. Div. to move with forward-operating units across the battlefield. It is from these shelters they will conduct the Warfighter exercise, a culminating training event that is designed to evaluate the entire division staff as they work with real-world subordinate units located both 100 meters away and on the other side of the globe.

“[This] is expeditionary, so we can use it to control the warfight from an area without hard-stand buildings,” said Lt. Col. Steele E. McGonegal, chief of operations for the 29th Inf Div. “This exercise will help us understand how we can all work together in this environment.”

Although the mobile DRASH system is designed for expedited assembly and disassembly, both parts and people had to come together to make deployment of the system a success. The complex is a series of 9 large and 13 medium tents, covering 160, 000 square feet that creates a workspace for a division headquarters, Fix described. After assembly comes the challenge of logistics and supplies for 450 Soldiers. Fix relied upon the model he utilized in a similar Warfighter exercise last year and improved upon it, which increased fuel efficiency.

With a mobile command post, Soldiers are more exposed to the elements from which they are normally protected in hard-stand buildings. The field selected for the mobile command post had been inundated with five days of rain prior to set-up. Using local materials to firm the waterlogged ground, Soldiers made the site workable. Soldiers and leaders had to think outside the box, or in this case outside the tent.

Soldiers worked tirelessly to bring in dirt, fill in holes, and lay down pallets to stabilize the terrain before they could place flooring.
Fix explained that setup has been challenging not only because of the limited time and inclement weather but also because the DRASH is a complex system which required constant learning on-the-go. At least 50 Soldiers have been working daily on set-up since arriving at Fort Hood in early November as part of the 29th Inf. Div’s post-mobilization training for deployment. Despite the weather and rain, the team has adapted and overcome at every step along the way.

“We had to not just work in but build in the mud,” Fix said. “In the six years I have been doing this, this has proven to be the most challenging build we have ever had.”

Private 1st Class Samantha Sabio, military police Soldier with the 29th Inf. Div., expressed that she and a team of fellow Soldiers have assembled all of the tents, set up an entire perimeter of concertina wire, filled and placed sandbags, and arranged and maintained more than a dozen generators.

“We all know the goal is to get the DRASH up. We have been doing just that, through small victories, one tent at a time,” said Sabio.
Soldiers who tackled this new challenge of setting up the mobile command post in shin-deep mud only reinforced the confidence that McGonegal and his fellow officers have that the 29th can provide mission command for more than 18,000 United States Army Central Soldiers supporting Operation Spartan Shield.

“Regardless of the conditions, regardless of the work that needs to be done, 29th Soldiers step up and do it,” said McGonegal.