‘Thunderbolt’ Soldiers Train with 446th Airlift Wing to Develop Rapid Resupply Methods in an Expeditionary Environment

  • Published
  • By Maj. Ian Sandal
  • 17th Field Artillery Brigade

Pvt. Richard Marston stands in the barren desert landscape of the Selah Drop Zone near Yakima, Wash., his eyes fixed on the horizon, watching as the silhouette of a C-17 Globemaster slowly emerges from the distance. He fires up his Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck or HEMTT, ready to offload the essential cargo as the aircraft nears the lone runway.

Marston, a motor transport operator assigned to 125th Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, is participating in Operation Island Hopper, a joint training event designed to develop new non-traditional methods of delivering ammunition and supplies to the front lines where they are needed. In a joint effort with 446th Airlift Wing, the Soldiers of 308th Brigade Support Battalion transported training rocket pods for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or HIMARS on a C-17 Globemaster to Selah Drop Zone. The pods were then picked up by the HIMARS crews of 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment as part of the May 17, 2022 training.

In a foreign conflict, it can take weeks or even months to ship supplies and ammunition from the U.S. throughout the Pacific. Contracted truck drivers from the host nations are used to transport the ammunition and supplies from the port to where they are needed by U.S. forces. This can be both risky and time consuming. These new internal methods allow Joint U.S. assets to quickly move ammunition and supplies directly to where they are needed, even in austere environments.

“It’s much more challenging to unload the aircraft directly with the HEMTT” says Marston, “but we practiced a lot on the mock aircraft and this is a great opportunity to put it into practice.”

Maj. John Raynor, the support operations officer for 308th BSB and lead planner for the exercise, watched the Soldiers as they unloaded the aircraft at Yakima. “This is the first time that an Air Force aircraft has been unloaded by an Army vehicle,” said Raynor. “This has never been done before in the history of sustainment.”

The week prior, Soldiers from 308th BSB worked alongside aviation crews assigned to 1-168th General Support Aviation Battalion to transport the rocket pods using a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. They were able to successfully load and unload the aircraft directly using the HEMTT.

“We got a lot of good data from both aircraft,” said Raynor. “In the future, we are going to try to use other types of aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules.”

This type of sustainment training is a first for 308th BSB as they incorporate new non-traditional methods to operate throughout the Pacific.