April 16, 2012
CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — The critical role of Redistribution Property Assistance Team, or RPAT, skills to the timely execution of retrograde operations in last year’s Operation New Dawn, coupled with the scarcity of the skill set across the Army brought a team of Soldiers from the 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, from Kuwait to Camp Shelby, Miss., last month to train deploying Soldiers in their area of expertise.
The 427th Brigade Support Battalion, known as a BSB, 27th Brigade Combat Team of the New York Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division, mobilized to Camp Shelby without a clear mission set based upon the changing requirements in theater. With roughly one month left to go with their training, the unit was notified that they would be split up into small teams in order to support the Operation Enduring Freedom Central Command Material Retrograde Element mission in Afghanistan.
The 177th Armor Brigade, the unit responsible for training the 427th BSB as part of a Brigade Combat Team, did not have the resident expertise needed to train the 427th BSB on the core function of the CMRE, which revolves around RPAT operations. Based on this training shortfall, the 402nd AFSB was tasked to provide a mobile training team to take on the mission.
The 402nd AFSB in turn tasked the 541st CSSB to export their RPAT Academy to Camp Shelby on a short fused suspense to start training RPAT operations. Along with Soldiers from it subordinate unit, the 227th Quartermaster Company, the 541st CSSB team arrived in Mississippi to set up and begin the program March 13.
The first task the 541st CSSB had to accomplish was how to condense the nine-day RPAT Academy course into five days to meet a tight training timeline. The solution was to extend the training day to a 12-hour format and to delete some classes that would not be applicable to the unit based upon how RPAT operations are being conducted in Operation Enduring Freedom, known as OEF.
This condensed training timeline ensured that Soldiers of the 427th BSB would be properly trained on RPAT operations before the start of their pre-deployment block leave on March 25.
The 541st CSSB launched a five member advance liaison, or ADVON, to prepare training and support conditions for the main body, which would comprise two dozen Soldiers.
The ADVON hit the ground running, coordinating classrooms, computers, containers, light sets, blocking and bracing material, and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPS, to ensure the students would experience quality learning environment and the culminating practical exercise would simulate the functions of an actual RPAT yard.
The ADVON pulled the diverse resources together in less than a week and assisted the arrival of the 24-member main body, including Soldiers from 227th Quartermaster Company who had honed their RPAT skills in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation New Dawn.
The RPAT Academy was up and running, beginning the training of 209 Soldiers from the 427th BSB as directed, March 13.
The first two days of the RPAT Academy focused on training Soldiers on the role and responsibilities of a Wholesale Responsible Officer, or WRO, at the RPAT yard. Students were taught to understand the process of assuming accountability of equipment by identifying, verifying, correcting and signing and distributing all documents required to complete the WRO process.
The next two days revolved around the roles and responsibilities for each function in an RPAT yard. They were instrumental in ensuring that Soldiers understood the process they would be required to demonstrate during the practical exercise at the finale of the RPAT training.
Key areas studied in these two days were Army Reset Management Tool, Theater Property Equipment Planner, Primary Hand Receipt Holder, Responsible Officer, transportation, customs, rolling stock and non-rolling stock. The consensus of Soldiers attending the academy was that the training was not specific to any particular Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS. It was taught in such a manner that, regardless of MOS, any Soldier could learn the material and feel comfortable with performing RPAT duties.
The practical exercise acted as a catalyst to merge the four days of classroom training into an event that reinforced the ultimate learning objectives for each class. The practical exercise employed real equipment and produced actual DD Forms 1348, Documentation for Turn In, to support numerous Master Event Sequence Lists during the practical exercise.
The 1348s contained numerous errors that students had to identify and correct. They also had to identify the missing paperwork with each individual packet before they could start the physical turn-in of their equipment. Once the paperwork was straightened out, the equipment was brought into the training RPAT yard where the Inventory Management Specialist validated the 1348 information was correct for the actual vehicle being turned in before accepting the piece of equipment. Only after that confirmation would the WRO sign off on the turn-in.
The cadre of the RPAT Academy role-played customers during the turn-in process to add realistic stress to the transaction and to illustrate shortcuts that customers will try to take when turning in a piece of equipment. Furthermore, the practical exercise focused training on loading procedures emphasizing the need for proper ground guides to ensure safety and efficiency.
Soldiers of the 427th BSB stated that the RPAT Academy was the best and most realistic training they received during the entire mobilization process, and the most pertinent to their actual wartime mission.
The end state of the RPAT Academy’s nine days of instruction on ground was 209 Soldiers trained and certified as WROs with a clear understanding of the skill set they will need to execute their mission in support of retrograde operations once the hit the ground in OEF.
This will allow the 427th BSB to leverage their capability in support of the CMRE mission and to make a positive impact immediately once in country.