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Different units cooperate to sustain the 86th IBCT Warfighter Exercise

By Spc. Avery Cunningham | 172nd Public Affairs Detachment | June 9, 2017

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — More than 600 Soldiers are involved with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), 10th Mountain Division, during its warfighter exercise at Fort Drum, New York, June 3-18. It is a feat to address the logistics of sustaining a large force while operating in the field, but brigade Soldiers from the 1157th Forward Support Company, Colorado National Guard, 186th Brigade Support Battalion, Vermont National Guard, and active-duty Soldiers from Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion, 10th MTN DIV, all came together to make it happen.

“Because of the uniqueness of how everyone operates, it took us a while to match and sync,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Humberto Michel, the NCO in charge at the kitchen, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 86th IBCT (MTN).

The most time-consuming task for the kitchen support Soldiers is unloading and separating the dinner and breakfast boxes of food from Troop Issue Subsistence Activity (TISA), said Michel. On the first day, it was a lot of work to try to operate as one team, but they eventually synchronized with one another to complete the mission.

“They’re moving like a well-oiled machine now,” said Michel.

Before the unit arrived at Fort Drum and could draw meals from TISA, Michel had to work out all the details and provide the number of Soldiers participating in the exercise. Approximately 600 MREs, 72 boxes of food, and 800 gallons of water are required to feed Soldiers for a single day.

“When we get close to the actual mission we lock in the number (of Soldiers) and tell them what we are projecting to feed, and then they order the food so that when we get here we have it,” said Michel.

After meals are ordered and secured, the troops must utilize Soldiers assisting as kitchen patrol. Because of food safety regulations, the culinary specialists wouldn’t be able to handle food if they also had to contend with taking out the trash and washing dishes, so they request Soldiers from other units for support.

“KP is kitchen support, and we appreciate them so much,” said Spc. Jessica Hernandez, culinary specialist, 1157th Forward Support Company, Colorado National Guard. “We wouldn’t be able to do as much as we can without them. They provide us with assistance, clean dirty dishes, and refuel our burners and our generator. We can’t touch fuel because then we wouldn’t be able to cook for a 76-hour period, and we can’t afford to lose people.”

There are few qualified culinary specialists to cook and serve chow, so they are unable to work swing shifts. The kitchen crew reports for duty at two in the morning until nine for breakfast, and then two in the afternoon until nine for dinner. The Soldiers contend with the tough schedule by sleeping in-between clean-up and the next meal-time.

“I learned to overcome it, and I’m used to it now,” said Hernandez, regarding the crazy hours.

Another element to the operation is the 10th Mountain Division active-duty Soldiers. They provide kitchen personnel and assistance to aid in the successful operation of the kitchen. The 10th MTN DIV culinary specialists also share their experience with the guardsmen.

“I appreciate being here,” said Hernandez. “It’s a learning experience, and I can take this back to Colorado to teach them what I was taught here.”