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15th Brigade Troops Battalion: Support the Action

Transformation brought a new, increased logistics capability to Army force structure: the sustainment brigade. Through the modular transformation, the sustainment brigade replaced division support commands (DISCOMs) and corps support groups (CSGs) to provide greater capabilities for logistics command and control on today’s battlefield. This increased capability, however, required additional support to the sustainment brigade headquarters, whose administrative responsibilities go above and beyond those of the traditional headquarters and headquarters companies (HHCs) that were found in DISCOMs and CSGs. As a result, the Army created a brigade troops battalion (BTB) to perform administrative and support functions for each sustainment brigade.

The 15th BTB provides essential support to the 15th Sustainment Brigade headquarters in garrison and while deployed. As the only organic unit assigned to the brigade, the 15th BTB oversees the brigade headquarters’ administrative, medical, signal, maintenance, and life support needs so that the headquarters can focus on logistics support provided by the attached combat sustainment support battalions (CSSBs).

The 15th BTB was activated on 5 July 2005 at Fort Hood, Texas. Soldiers previously assigned to the 27th Main Support Battalion and the 1st DISCOM of the 1st Cavalry Division formed the foundation of the unit.

The Battalion in Operation Iraqi Freedom

In August 2006, the 15th BTB deployed to Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND–B) to provide support to the 15th Sustainment Brigade for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Doctrinally, a BTB is composed of an HHC, which provides administrative, medical, and maintenance support, and a signal company tasked to provide communications and information systems support to the brigade headquarters. Shortly after activation, however, the 15th BTB realized the need to split the HHC into two companies. With over 350 Soldiers and multiple functions, the HHC span of responsibility exceeded the capabilities of just one company commander. As a result, the 15th BTB is composed of three companies: an HHC, a medical and maintenance company (Alpha Company), and a signal company (Bravo Company).

While deployed, the 15th BTB’s HHC provided administrative and life support for over 230 Soldiers assigned to the 15th Sustainment Brigade headquarters element. The HHC managed all life support for Soldiers living in more than 10 separate locations and supervised the operation of the dining facility, which supported over 10,000 Soldiers a day. The HHC carried out a training management program to ensure that Soldiers maintained proficiency in warrior skills, military occupational specialty skills, cultural awareness, and sensitivity training.

Alpha Company at Work

Alpha Company provided maintenance and medical support to the brigade and the 15th BTB. With over 100 Soldiers, it was a multifunctional support company that included an organizational maintenance platoon, a component repair platoon, and a medical platoon.

The maintenance platoon operated a consolidated motorpool and was responsible for the organizational maintenance of over 100 pieces of rolling stock within the 15th BTB and its attached subordinate units. Alpha Company provided direct support maintenance to supported and attached units that lacked maintenance capability. These units included the 786th Quartermaster Battalion, several military transition teams supporting Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) at Camp Taji, and a movement control team from the 49th Movement Control Battalion. The company also operated the only functional sustainment-level component repair platoon within the theater.

The component repair platoon consisted of a fuel and equipment repair section and an intermediate family of test equipment section. These sections provided needed support to the numerous supply support activities at Camp Taji with starter and generator repair and circuit card diagnosis for M109 Paladin howitzers.

The company’s medical platoon contributed to the health and welfare of Soldiers assigned to the 15th Sustainment Brigade and to all of Camp Taji and MND–B. Doctrinally, the platoon consists of treatment and evacuation squads that operate a battalion aid station that can support 400 personnel. While deployed, however, the medical platoon’s role greatly expanded to operate a troop medical clinic, supporting over 2,500 personnel at Camp Taji with only one physician and one physician’s assistant. Alpha Company performed this role due to the lack of an area medical support company at Camp Taji.

Alpha Company also contained personnel to staff and operate both a mental health clinic and an optometry clinic. The mental health team provided support to over 18,000 Soldiers at Camp Taji. Meanwhile, the optometry clinic provided area support to MND–B by providing preventive, routine, and acute optical care to over 35,000 Soldiers. As one of only three full-service optometry clinics in Iraq, the clinic had the capability to make prescription eyeglasses in its fabrication lab.

Bravo Company at Work

Bravo Company provided signal support to the 15th Sustainment Brigade headquarters and subordinate units. With only 60 Soldiers, the company provided secure and non-secure communications for the brigade and powered the numerous automated combat service support systems that are vital to sustaining the warfighter.

Bravo Company’s capabilities included a range extension platoon consisting of two command post node teams and a retransmission team. These teams attached to subordinate units of the 15th Sustainment Brigade that were geographically dispersed over large distances and gave them the ability to communicate with the brigade headquarters. Bravo Company supported the 393d and 68th CSSBs, which were located over 25 miles from Camp Taji. The network extension platoon also operated several systems, including the Joint Network Node (JNN), Ku-band satellite mobile unit, line of sight (LOS) radio, and Enhanced Position Locating and Reporting System (EPLRS). These systems provided full voice, video, and data services and satellite transmission to the brigade to enable communication with subordinate and higher headquarters. These systems were employed at Camp Taji, adjacent to the 15th Sustainment Brigade command information center.

Bravo Company also included a signal maintenance section, a communications and electronics team, and a network operations (NETOPs) section. Both the signal maintenance section and the communications and electronics team worked closely with the organizational maintenance platoon in Alpha Company and provided maintenance support to the brigade’s communications systems, such as JNN and LOS. The NETOPs section worked closely with the brigade S–6 to monitor the brigade’s network, ensure compliance, and troubleshoot problems when they arose.

Securing the Camp

In addition to providing support to the brigade headquarters, the 15th BTB performed two additional missions during the deployment to Iraq: base defense at Camp Taji and ISF assistance. After deploying to Camp Taji, the 15th BTB was tasked to assume command and control of the largest portion of the base defense of Camp Taji. Executing this mission required over 220 Soldiers daily and covered the most dangerous section of Camp Taji’s perimeter, which included 18 guard towers and 2 entry control points bordering Main Supply Route Tampa. To accomplish this mission, the 15th BTB was assigned two additional companies: the 410th Quartermaster Company (Kentucky Army National Guard) and the 1157th Transportation Company (Wisconsin Army National Guard). These two companies increased the total strength of the 15th BTB to over 700 Soldiers.

While conducting base defense, the 15th BTB’s area defense operations center and base defense assets fell under the tactical control of the base defense operations center (BDOC) run by the 1st Battalion, 82d Field Artillery Regiment, and Camp Taji’s senior tactical commander. This required the 15th BTB to execute the tactical orders of the BDOC while on the battlefield; however, all other command and control and support functions were the responsibility of the 15th BTB. To facilitate this command relationship, the 15th BTB worked closely with the BDOC to ensure seamless command and control and unity of effort. Over 35 15th BTB Soldiers were awarded Combat Action Badges for engaging with enemy forces while conducting base defense operations.

In order to enable ISF to take the lead in securing Iraq, the 15th BTB created an ISF cell that partnered with the military integration and transition teams assigned to the Taji Regional Support Unit, the Taji National Depot (TND), and the 6th Motorized Transport Regiment. The 15th BTB ISF cell provided coaching, teaching, and mentoring for the TND and assisted Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq in enhancing the Iraqis’ logistics operations. This effort included processing more than 600 containers of class IX repair parts that were received as part of the Coalition Forces’ military support package and from foreign military sales to the Iraqi government. The 15th BTB ISF cell was assigned the mission of standing up a warehouse for the receipt, storage, and issue of U.S. military equipment repair parts for the Iraq National Class IX Warehouse. The 15th BTB ISF cell also worked as a liaison between the 15th Sustainment Brigade staff and the TND to ensure the warehouse had the resources required to rapidly develop the unit’s capabilities. This included equipment and technical support to the military integration and transition teams assigned to support the TND. The 15th BTB placed great importance on supporting the training and equipping of ISF logistics units to be self-sufficient.

While deployed to Iraq, the 15th BTB provided exceptional support to the brigade headquarters and conducted the additional operations of base defense and ISF support. It was a time of many firsts for the unit as it contributed to defining the new roles and responsibilities of a BTB. Most importantly, however, the 15th BTB provided world-class support to the 15th Sustainment Brigade and allowed it to complete its wartime mission.

First Lieutenant Stephen J. Young was assigned as the Force Protection Officer of the 15th Brigade Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, at Camp Taji, Iraq. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from St. John’s University in Minnesota. He is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course.