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593rd Sustainment Brigade to become Army’s newest ESC

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:45PM July 11th, 2013
120608-A-VH247-003

Rafael Tinsay/U.S. Army

593rd Sust. Bde. Soldiers case their colors during a ceremony at Watkins Field in 2012.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 593rd Sustainment Brigade will officially transform into the Army’s third active duty expeditionary sustainment command.

The change, which authorizes a third general officer command position on the base, provides the Army and U.S. Forces Command an organization ready to deploy to conduct regional sustainment and support operations.

Having a third active duty ESC, said Col. Douglas McBride, who has led the 593rd Sust. Bde. since June 2012, allows the Army to continuously keep a mobile sustainment command in each one of three phases of mission readiness, which the Army refers to as force generation pools. Army force generation doctrine breaks readiness into three phases: reset, the period after a unit returns from deployment; train and ready, the process of preparing a unit for deployment; and ready for mission, the point at which a unit is trained and available for deployment.

During the past decade of military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army was forced to either abbreviate the dwell times between overseas deployments of its two active duty ESCs or mobilize a Reserve component ESC to meet the sustainment demands of combatant commanders.

Standing up a Reserve unit, McBride said, takes longer and costs the Army more than sending an active duty ESC, and sending a recently returned unit often forced the Army to shorten invaluable rest time for Soldiers home from combat.

McBride said the 593rd ESC would align the one-star sustainment headquarters under JBLM-based I Corps, allowing the corps commanding general to tap the unit whenever needed for training exercises and missions at home and abroad.

“It gives the I Corps commander and the Pacific a huge general officer-level planning and operating headquarters that we just didn’t have in this region,” McBride said.

Already, the 593rd has plans to support I Corps as an ESC in at least one of the corps’ training and humanitarian endeavors with Pacific Rim allies: Operation Talisman Saber, a training event this summer with Australian forces. Talisman Saber will certify I Corps as a joint task force as the corps moves forward with its new mission to partner with militaries across the Pacific against threats from natural disasters to terrorist attacks.

The exercise will be the first of many leading to a certification event in fiscal year 2015 that will confirm the new ESC’s readiness for worldwide deployment.

“The Pacific Rim is an incredibly important region in the world, and as critical to the balance of security as any other region,” said Col. Joe Gann, currently the 593rd Sust. Bde. chief of staff. Gann will become the ESC training and operations officer next week.

By converting a unit instead of creating an entirely new one, McBride said, the Army saves money while honoring its plan to cut nearly 80,000 Soldiers from its ranks by the end of 2017.

The 593rd will remain the same except for its approximately 275-Soldier headquarters, which will shrink by 16 positions and gain experience by bringing in more senior leadership — a one-star general as its commander, additional colonels and lieutenants colonel, more sergeants major, warrant officers and master sergeants.

Of the Soldiers in the brigade’s headquarters, between 15 and 20 percent were relocated in the conversion to an ESC. But in every case, McBride said, the unit was able to keep the Soldiers on JBLM whom it was forced to move. Some were sent to other brigades on base, and some went to battalions or companies subordinate to the command.

“If a Soldier was no longer authorized in the ESC, based on the conversion, we looked to place them here at I Corps and JBLM in an organization that does have their occupational specialty, so we don’t have to send that family packing prematurely,” he said.

Shortly after arriving to the 593rd last summer, McBride led the brigade on a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan with the mission of closing out and handing over bases, and spearheading the logistics of shipping equipment back home, as U.S. forces began to withdraw.

Since the beginning of the year, McBride has set the conditions for a new type of headquarters by equipping and manning the unit to meet the requirements of an ESC. He will officially hand the unit over to its new one-star leader during a ceremony Aug. 22 on Watkins Field. The incoming commander has not been announced as of press time.

Once it’s an ESC, the 593rd, once referred to as one of JBLM’s “separate” brigades, will oversee responsibility of the base’s 62nd Medical Brigade and 42nd Military Police Brigade.

With the majority of JBLM’s remaining brigades under the oversight of the 7th Infantry Division, McBride said the I Corps commanding general, Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, can dedicate 100 percent of his focus to strategic operations in the Pacific.

“You have two umbrellas that will answer to I Corps,” Gann said, adding that the new one-star headquarters will put a much-needed administrative layer between I Corps, the 7th Inf. Div., and the brigades 7th Inf. Div. doesn’t currently oversee.

“7th ID and 593rd are key and essential for mission command of 16 brigades here at JBLM,” McBride said. “This is just the missing link.”

McBride estimated it would take between nine and 12 months to fully mature the 593rd into a seamlessly operating ESC.