Written by Sgt. 1st Class Mary Rose Mittlesteadt
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Fort Campbell, KY – In the early morning hours of April 25th, small teams of Soldiers started their preparation for the long morning that awaited them. Their preparation was for the “Wedge Challenge” hosted by the 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) “Drive the Wedge,” 101st Sustainment Brigade “Lifeliners.”
The teams consisted of five to seven Soldiers from the battalion’s subordinate companies. Not only did these teams come from within this particular battalion, they were, by design, all made up of unit leadership – officers and noncommissioned officers.The purpose behind this was to demonstrate the battalion’s air assault support capabilities to the junior Soldiers and incoming personnel and to create some esprit de corps with some friendly competition.
“The 129th provides a huge amount of support to the 101st Airborne Division, and we want the Soldiers to know that things are going to change in the future on how we do things,” said Lt. Col. Thomas M. Gaston Jr., commander of the 129th CSSB.
He explained how it is possible that upcoming operations will be different from the past 10 years. “We need to be ready in a moment’s notice, which means we have to get back into air assault operations and understand how to support those operations.”
The 129th CSSB is made up of support elements that include maintenance, equipment movement and transportation, such as line-haul trucks, forklifts, rough terrain container handlers, and the mechanics needed to keep everything operational.
“Our transportation units play a big part in receiving air drop equipment as it hits the ground. I want Soldiers to know how air assault operations are executed,” he added.
Embracing that spirit, the leaders began to lay out their gear before the sun even peaked over the horizon. This not only to ensured they had what they needed for a condensed version of the challenging 12-mile foot march students must complete to graduate The Sabalauski Air Assault School (TSAAS) on Fort Campbell, but gave all in attendance a demonstration of an inspected for equipment deficiencies by actual TSAAS instructors.
Under large lights run by generators in the early hours, the instructors inspected the gear in fine detail, as if the participants were in air assault school.
“The attention to detail you get when you go through air assault school is second to none,” said Staff Sgt. James Cassell, an air assault instructor.
After the concluding the inspection, the teams started on their six-mile foot-march wearing their body armor, helmets and assault packs full of the gear from the inspection. After completing their march, the teams immediately charged into their next task – sling load inspections.
With intimidating TSAAS instructors watching closely, each team had to find and call out the sling load deficiencies on the equipment within a limited time.
As their points added up, the teams one by one moved onto their next task in the Wedge Challenge – the obstacle course. With the sun high in the sky now and a crowd of excited Soldiers surrounding the teams, the TSAAS instructors in true air assault style didn’t let the teams begin their obstacle portion of the challenge without performing a motivational warm-up in the form of military exercises – like the pushup.
After the warm-up, the teams hit the obstacle course. Every team member had to complete each obstacle correctly for maximum points, which included the infamous rope climb.
The team leader of the 584th Support Maintenance Company “War Path,” 2nd Lt. Michael Howard said team preparation was key to success for them. “We came up with a game plan for each event we knew would be presented in the challenge, which helped us come in and hit the ground running.”
With the end in sight, the teams had to compete in one more friendly challenge, a game of tug-o’-war. This portion was not only fun for the formations of troops cheering their teams on, but for the leaders who dug their feet in the sand to take down their peers.