U.S. troops get ready for exercise in Georgia
June 19, 2008
VICENZA, Italy — Lt. Col. Edwin Hernandez has the detailed plans worked out to erect a small town, sustain it and then tear it all down again — all within a matter of a few weeks.
The lead logistical planner from Southern European Task Force (Airborne) is at the logistical helm for "Immediate Response ’08," an exercise in the Republic of Georgia.
The exercise "affords us the opportunity to train with our Georgian counterparts, who happen to make up the third-largest force contribution" to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker, a spokesman for U.S. Europe Command.
Hernandez’s planning for the exercise is worked down to the hour and pound: from exactly when the thousands of arriving troops will show up at the airport, to the amount of Army-approved food to feed about 2,000 soldiers at least two hot meals a day, complete with choice of meats.
"Why compromise?" Hernandez said, smiling, after rolling out his roughly 5-foot-long, plastic-coated detailed flow chart, his "pride and joy."
So he’s got tabs on the 158,112 pounds of Meals, Ready to Eat, the 352,000 bottles of water coming from Greece, the 132,000 pounds of ice and 660,000 pounds of food to be trucked commercially from Germany — a transport option far cheaper than flying in supplies, he said.
Oh yes, he also has accounted for the 61 short tons of small arms and explosives. "When this is all said and done, it’ll be about a $7 million expense," Hernandez said.
The U.S. European Command-driven annual exercise this year involves U.S. Army National Guard soldiers, a U.S. Marine Reserve Unit, and Georgian Armed Forces soldiers — headed by a command-and-control headquarters unit from SETAF. A handful of military representatives from Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan also will participate.
"Immediate Response" is one of several EUCOM exercises working with partners.
The more than 1,000 U.S. troops bound for the Republic of Georgia will represent the largest presence of U.S. forces in the country, said Maj. Ryan Dillon, SETAF spokesman. "We learn from one another to be able to work in a coalition environment," he said. "That’s what the U.S. gets out of this."
The exercise has been in the planning stages since October, and is not a response to the recent tensions and fighting by breakaway groups in the region seeking independence, officials said.
The exercise will take place at the austere 4th Infantry Brigade base in Vaziani, about 40 minutes outside of the capital of Tbilisi. Infantry guys will train for two weeks starting in mid-July, while the headquarters staff will be there for the month. Previous exercises were held in Bulgaria in 2005 and 2006, and Poland last year.
The exercise’s goal is to get troops to rapidly assimilate with each others’ fighting techniques — with the U.S. contingent learning from the others as much as the other way around, said Maj. Dave Klingman, SETAF plans officer.
The U.S. once again will train as allies with former foes, Klingman, a 17-year veteran, pointed out. "We’re breaking down barriers we put up for so long in the Cold War."
The U.S. infantrymen include soldiers from Georgia’s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry National Guard element, and infantry Reserve Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, headquartered in Ohio, and augmented by handfuls of soldiers from other Europe- and U.S.-based support elements.