The 329th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) will be deploying overseas for the first time since the battalion relocated from St. Louis to Parsons.
A mobilization farewell ceremony for the 70 soldiers and their families is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Parsons High School.
A reception for the soldiers and their families will follow. The public can get involved by providing food for the potluck through the First Christian Church, which will be feeding the soldiers and their families around 11 a.m. following the ceremony. To provide food, call the church at (620) 421-4790.
The community is also invited to line up at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, on Southern Avenue east of the David A. Brenner Army Reserve Center to show support for the troops as they depart on U.S. 59 south toward Fort Hood to prepare for deployment overseas.
“We will be heading to Afghanistan … with a mission to provide logistics support for Afghanistan. Specifically, we will manage food, water, fuel, gear/supplies, ammunition and building materials. Essentially, we will be providing life support for a small city of U.S. and NATO personnel,” Capt. Alex Borgardts said. “We will be working alongside active Army, National Guard, Air Force and Navy personnel. We also work closely with civilians and contractors in Afghanistan.”
As he spoke, troops trained on learning to operate various pieces of equipment, such as 10K forklifts.
As an Army Reserve unit, the battalion is a federally funded organization trained with the Army. During a typical year, the organization trains one weekend each month and three weeks annually.
“Leading up to the mobilization of our organization in late September, we have been training heavily to be the most capable, combat-ready and lethal Reserve force in Afghanistan. This year our soldiers have trained more heavily as we prepare to leave. In January, we attended a month-long training in California to train on vehicle crew-served weapons platforms (weapons mounted to the top of military vehicles). During our monthly weekend training, we have focused on weapons familiarization, medical and first aid, chemical, biological preparedness, night vision and night driving training, communication/radio use and land navigation,” Borgardts said. “This past month we conducted several training and readiness events. In order for the 329th CSSB to be ready and be prepared for Afghanistan, each soldier must be personally ready, as that is the first step in improving the collective readiness of the organization and building the combat capability that is required to win in our nation’s wars.
“Our soldiers conducted hand grenade training and completed a multi-step course to practice engaging targets with hand grenades. We are focusing on counter improvised explosive device (C-IED) training. Our soldiers have been trained to spot and detect objects that could harm them while in Afghanistan. They maneuvered through a specifically tailored course in small teams to practice the actions required should they encounter a similar scenario in Afghanistan. They used paintball guns to engage targets and react to scenario driven events. Our soldiers qualified on their individually assigned weapon (M4 assault rifle, M9 Beretta hand gun, or 249 machine gun) at a pop-up weapons range on Camp Crowder.
Focus has also been on ensuring soldiers are medically ready to deploy, updating immunizations, conducting pre-deployment health assessments, updating administrative data, including beneficiary designations and emergency contacts.
While the majority of the battalion’s soldiers are from Southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri, with the mobilization, some soldiers transferred into the unit from Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, California and Washington.
“The support provided by our soldier’s families during this time of change is critical to the success of our organization. Our command understands the stresses a deployment put on families, so we have started a family readiness group that is run by the spouse of one of our soldiers and designed to create a support group of spouses and family members who are experiencing similar life events,” Borgardts said. “Likewise, our organization has a chaplain that will be deploying with us and is readily available to provide religious and counseling support for our soldiers and their families during deployment.”
He said employers play a key role for soldiers and their families as well. They hold open jobs for soldiers for when they return from overseas.
“There is a pretty diverse group as far as what people do, but that is actually one of our strengths as reservists. … We get stationed in the Middle East and we bring what we do on the civilian side along with our military skills. Our soldiers work in various industries, including careers as police officers, CPAs, nurses, teachers, body builders and non-profit project managers.” Borgardts said.
“We are humbled and excited about the opportunity to serve our nation, and we do not take lightly the sacrifices of our soldiers, their families and civilian employers. Safety of our soldiers is our number one priority and we are aggressively training to ensure that we are the most ready, capable effective sustainment organization in Afghanistan.”