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The Glue Holding It All Together: One Unit Made It All Happen at the Arizona Border

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Story by SGT Nicholas Brown-Bell on 05/22/2019
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Around a crowded conference table in an office building on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Maj. Darrell Lyles led the 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion team through their daily operations synch meeting. As the Support Operations Officer, it was Lyles' job to synchronize all the logistics of Task Force 51, Arizona's ground force component of the DoD mission to support the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection in securing the Southern border of the United States.

To say the 142nd CSSB's mission was integral to TF51's success is an understatement; the unit handled a huge array of support functions. From fuel for vehicles and generators, to hot food and bottled water delivered to those in the field, vehicle maintenance, transportation and distribution of supplies, including the bulk wire strung along the Arizona-Mexico border, the 142nd handled it all. The 142nd's Chaplain supported all 650 TF-51 Soldiers, too. Further, 142nd CSSB worked directly with CBP to deliver shipping containers for supply storage at vital ports of entry to the United States.

Lyles said the unit arrived with little notice but was quickly trained up by their predecessors in order to hit the ground running. He "couldn't ask for better execution of the mission. I'm extremely proud of what this team has done in a very short period of time."

In short, the 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion was busy. Very busy.

For battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Hunt, busy is how he likes it. He said the 142nd's mission at home is important but transitioning that mission forward is where the unit really shines.

"A deployment is a deployment, it doesn't matter what location you are at. Whether you're here in Tucson or you're in Afghanistan, as long as you can keep your eye on the mission, you'll be fine," he said.

As busy as the unit is with real-world applications of their skills, Sgt. 1st Class Nickolius Hereford, operations NCOIC, said the unit is never too busy to train, even when deployed.

"We'll leave better than when we came," said Hereford. "Continuing to learn is a good thing, never a bad thing."

This focus on training while balancing the mission is clearly an oft-repeated mantra of the unit. Battalion commander Lt. Col. Ryan Swedlow focused on the necessity of returning to basics, as well, no matter how much is expected of him and his Soldiers.

"Too often, we rush to get into collective, flashy training', convoy live fire and field training exercises, but this [mission] has given us a great opportunity to get back to individual readiness," Swedlow said.

One would think the unit's training was mostly classroom lectures and PowerPoint presentations to save time, with the hectic schedule imposed on the 142nd. Swedlow and Hunt had none of that, though, with the resources offered by Davis-Monthan and neighboring Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Soldiers qualified on their weapons at live-fire ranges, learned new communications and radio technology systems, and created a night driving course in the motor pool adjacent to "Sun Glow City".

Focusing on training and the mission should have left no time to build morale. But the command sponsored trips, special passes, and family-focused events to reunite the 151 Soldiers of the 142nd CSSB with their loved ones over the holidays. The junior Soldiers of the unit noticed their efforts.

Spc. Michael Barsotti, 142nd CSSB command driver, said, "We've got really good leadership. We're coming together as a team. There's not a lot of us [junior enlisted] so the senior leadership, NCOs and officers, have really taken care of us."

With the heavy workload, it's easy to wonder what could possibly make all the work worthwhile. For Capt. Richard Simpson, S3 OIC, it's easy to summarize: "everyone here really loves sustainment because our job is to take care of people. It's very rewarding that you can see the immediate impact of what we do."


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