21st TSC supports world’s biggest coalition communication exercise

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Michael J. Taylor
21st TSC Public Affairs

The 23rd Ordnance Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 21st Theater Sustainment Command and the 635th Movement Control Team, 39th Movement Control Battalion, 21st TSC joined together to assist the U.S. European Command in hosting the world’s largest coalition communication exercise known as Operation Combined Endeavor Sept. 9 to 23 in Grafenwöhr, Germany.

Combined Endeavor is an annual exercise that draws nations from throughout Europe and North America for training focused on building and improving multinational communication and network inter-connectivity.

Participants included members from EUCOM components and more than 1,000 military and civilian personnel from approximately 40 nations from throughout Europe and North America. The overall goal of CE is to build and improve network and communication methods and connectivity. The exercise also enables partner nations’ command and control systems and leadership to respond to regional crises and disasters.

“The ultimate goal of the exercise is basically to ensure that all communication systems of all the partnership nations are able to communicate if the time comes to do so in a hostile or disaster situation,” said 1st Lt. Allen V. Fryman, the movement control coordinator for CE and member of the  635th MCT.

In support of this year’s exercise, the 23rd Ord. Co. and 635th MCT were tasked to manage the transportation and movement control of equipment and personnel for all the countries participating in CE.

Everything from scheduling busses and flights, coordinating transportation to and from airports, loading and unloading equipment, and providing crucial supplies was placed on the shoulders of 10 personnel: five Soldiers from the 635th MCT and five Soldiers from the 23rd Ord.

“Our unit is out here performing a movement control mission for moving pax, personnel and equipment. We transport personnel from the Munich International Airport and the Nurnberg Airport to here at the Grafenwöhr Training Area, as well as receiving their cargo and placing it within the training area it needs to go to,” Fryman said.

“The actual mission for the 23rd Ord. is to provide all the material handling support,” said Staff Sgt. Michael B. Hasbun, the liaison officer between the 18th CSSB and CE. “We provided billeting, food, blankets, materials, wood, banding, basically anything they needed to conduct their operations.”

Working with all the different militaries from the various nations and handling their equipment presented minor complications that took some creative thinking on the part of 21st TSC personnel in order to ensure mission success.

“The most complicated part was trying to use American equipment to off-load and on load everything, but not all of their equipment is standardized to American specs,” Hasbun said. “We have, for example, Russian living containers out here and their slots for the forklift are not standard to ours so we had to use some thinking outside the box like utilizing additional cargo straps. So there was  a lot of maneuvering equipment around and trying to adapt while also making sure we accomplished the mission safely.”    

“We might have taken a little more time planning and rehearsing, but that’s been the goal, is getting it done but getting it done safely and making sure nothing was damaged,” Hasbun said. “We have been 100 percent successful in our mission, we have had zero damage and we have been ahead of every time frame because not one unit has had to sit for a minute longer than necessary.”

Throughout the entire exercise, 21st TSC units managed to easily overcome and conquer all the hiccups they were challenged with and their professionalism did not go unnoticed from the participating nations.

“The looks on their faces when we helped them with something they were struggling with and when they actually tell you, ‘thank you for your help. We really needed it,’ makes you feel really good,” said Spc. Jonathan P. Cason, an ammunition specialist with the 23rd Ord. Co. “Actually interacting with the other countries was my favorite part about being out here. I have never had the opportunity to interact with people from other countries before.”

“Everyone was so thankful and really appreciated our help and that felt good,” Cason said. “For example, after we helped the Italians download their stuff they invited us over for coffee and we got to sit down and talk with those guys. We also talked with participants from Spain, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Finland and Ireland.”

Living the 21st TSC’s model “First in Support,” the Soldiers of the 23rd Ord. Co. and 635th MCT not only supported the world’s largest coalition communications exercise successfully, but they managed to make a few friends from other nations along the way.