FORT PICKETT, Va. --
Alexander the Great said, “My logisticians are a humorless lot. They know if my campaign fails, they’re the first ones I’ll slay.”
Centuries later, warfare has changed, but the needs of troops have proven logistics is as important as ever. Moving approximately 2000 Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to Fort Picket, Va., is no small task, but it is an important one.
Often times people take for granted some of the things they use on a daily basis such as food, water, vehicles, toilet paper, computers and even electricity. This is the job of logisticians; they make sure everything required to effectively run a unit is where it needs to be when it needs to be there. That is no small task and one that requires practice.
“You get better by training,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Tellis, the MEU’s logistics chief. The Fort Pickett exercise is the first unit-wide training evolution for the 26th MEU since it formed February 15. The MEU will train throughout the summer before its deployment this fall.
“We are here to train as a (Marine Air Ground Task Force)," Tellis said, "to come together as a command element, as a battalion landing team, as a combat logistics battalion and as an air combat element. We need to come here and work out our kinks and establish working relationships with each other and we have to practice and we have to get it wrong and get it right - here, so when we head out on this upcoming deployment for real, we’ll have our game faces on and have our stuff together. So, essentially, we come here to practice, so we can execute for the float.”
According to Tellis, without this indispensable training, it would be impossible to adequately train and prepare for missions the MEU could be called upon to execute.
“Some of the headaches that you tend to go through, especially when you take tactical vehicles, and you convoy up - you have vehicles that break down,” he said. “You have Marines, or you have bus operators that take wrong turns or people who wander away. Some of those little things cause a big ripple.”
Although some of these exercises are somewhat redundant, they are important practice for the real thing, Tellis said, because without it, it would be impossible to know whether or not the logistical needs of the MAGTF were being met.
“This is important practice for the logistical Marines here because we have to be able to ensure that the MAGTF, as a whole, is getting the support that it needs” he said. “If you don’t practice it here you’ll get it wrong out there and the bottom line is that, that’s our mission, to provide support to the MAGTF. Ensuring that the Battalion Landing Team has its fuel, has its chow, make sure that the vehicles are up and running, make sure that the maintenance is getting done. We work through these issues here, practice it here, so when it comes time to do this for real if we get called into some foreign country to have to do this, we know what we’re doing. We go through the muscle memory of practicing this stuff, rehearsing, training and training, so when we get there we’re not stumbling over ourselves.”
During their time here some of the logisticians will be ensuring everyone’s vehicles are being maintained and others will be providing maintenance support, if needed, to the MAGTF, along with ensuring everyone who needs a special vehicle license gets one, so the CLB, BLT and the ACE have the required drives they need to support their missions.
“I’m the maintenance management chief for the command element, which means all the readiness issues, as far as, if we have a weapons system go down or if we have a truck go down, whatever it may be, it really impacts on the logistics side of the house,” said Sgt. James Gilliam. “It’s a lot of moving parts; you actually get to see everything come together as one.”
While working in logistics Gilliam said that he has learned how imperative it is that even the smallest detail is accounted for. “You actually see how much one piece of gear can mean, especially weapons systems,” he said.
“If you don’t have logistics then you can’t fight, you can’t train, you can’t do anything. If we are providing timely support to the MEU as a whole then the MEU can train and become more lethal war-fighters. The less they have to think about our job the more they can concentrate on getting stronger at theirs; there should never be any doubt about your logical support.”