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Moving a brigade halfway around world is complex

By DAVID BURGE | El Paso Times, Texas (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 6, 2017

Moving an entire brigade combat team halfway around the world is a complicated business.

And Fort Bliss’ 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is doing it for the second time in about nine months as it starts returning home.

About 3,500 soldiers from the brigade deployed to Kuwait in June. Soldiers started to return home in January, and all are expected back by the end of March.

Capt. Sam Winkler, the brigade’s human resources officer, said the brigade has been working with Kuwaiti officials and the U.S. Navy, which helps with the customs process there, to streamline the process it takes to get soldiers onto airplanes for their return home.

They were able to trim a very involved process down from about 32 hours to just seven hours, said Winkler, who is originally from Nepal, but now calls Dallas-Fort Worth home.

The idea is to make it easier for soldiers to get home, she said.

Maj. Xeon Simpson is the brigade support operations officer with the 123rd Brigade Support Battalion.

The brigade will have to move more than 2,000 pieces of equipment – tanks, Bradleys, Paladins, Humvees and other combat equipment – back to Fort Bliss, said Simpson, who is from the Bronx, N.Y.

Most of the equipment will go on Navy ships, but some will be flown on airplanes, Simpson said.

The key is to get the equipment back to Fort Bliss “in one piece and on time,” he said.

The plan is to have the equipment back home by the end of April, so the brigade can be ready for its next round of training after a brief break, he said.

The Bulldog Brigade has been busy working with the 1st Armored Division headquarters, Forces Command, Transportation Command and Army Central Command to plan this movement back to Fort Bliss since about three months into the deployment, Simpson said.

“It is a very resource-intensive process,” he said.

Maj. Maria Gregory, the brigade logistics officer, was instrumental in spearheading the planning and coordination of this movement of equipment. Simpson is responsible for its execution.

Throughout the deployment, the brigade and its subordinate units got valuable training opportunities.

The 2nd Engineer Battalion took full advantage of that and got lots of hands-on training while in Kuwait, said Capt. Justin Lefor, commander of the battalion’s Bravo Company.

Lefor, from Dickinson, N.D., had his company use its bulldozers to clear out training ranges near Camp Buehring, where most of the brigade was stationed. Wind had blown sand into the ranges when the training complex was shut down for a time for oil exploration, he said.

The battalion also did a one-day Castle Crucible event, which was held at the Kuwait Naval Base in January. The event included a canoe race, a Humvee push, tire flip and a verbal test where they would stand on a diving board over a pool, answer questions and then take the plunge.

Castle Crucible was a way of bringing the diverse engineer battalion together again before returning to Fort Bliss, Lefor said. While in Kuwait, the unit did split operations in which most of its soldiers were located at Camp Buehring, while some were stationed at the Kuwait Naval Base.

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©2017 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

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