11th Armored Cavalry’s First Supply and Transport Troop
Text and Photos by Danny J. Marr
(Editor’s Note: This is a longer article than we normally do; the following is an
exceptional overview with superb details of an often-overlooked key component of our
The history of Supply and Transport (S&T) Troop (Combat Support Squadron (CSS), 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment) began in Wildflecken, West Germany in January 1985.
LTC Ronald F. Kelly, commander of the new Combat Support Squadron, summarized S&T Troop’s initial challenge during the first change of command in April 1987: “A little over two years ago, Captain Marr walked into my office here in Wildflecken, as humble as it was then, and I told him I have good news and bad news. The good news was that he was going to command in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment’s S&T Troop. The bad news was that his unit consisted of three soldiers and two brand new second lieutenants, and he had to build it to what it was intended to be.”
Surprised but undaunted, S&T Troop soldiers focused immediately on planning and iterative execution of core missions, with outstanding soldiers arriving weekly. Vital was the selection of the new First Sergeant, who was then serving as the Platoon Sergeant for the Support Platoon in LTC John Abram’s 1st Squadron. First Sergeant Bidwell’s experiences in Vietnam and with the 11th ACR in Germany proved invaluable as 214 required troops and NCOs began arriving from stateside assignments or in-country transfers.
S&T worked with HQ CSS staff to identify and immediately order new barracks furnishings. Meanwhile, V Corps helped fund $300,000 for new CTA 50-900 clothing and equipment items, ensuring that arriving soldiers were well-outfitted for the anticipated rigorous field training and support ahead. Each sponsored arriving troop was housed in newly renovated barracks on the kaserne.
The Wildflecken Garrison Command had also recently conveniently completed a large maintenance facility across the street from the barracks, in anticipation of the arrival of potentially over 143 Light, Medium and Heavy (Heavy Equipment Transporters) wheeled vehicles, including a fleet of 5,000-gallon fuel tankers and tractor-trailers. The maintenance platoon, led by LT Winters, ordered and equipped the facility with an initial Prescribed Load List, critical tools, and required maintenance service items. The platoon also initiated a training refresher program for 14 mechanics, in preparation for the arrival of the fleet. LT Winters teamed with LT McMurray’s Transportation Platoon to develop a rigorous 2-week driver safety program, which contributed to a regimental safety award in 2d Quarter, 1985.
Regimental headquarters soon directed CSS to transition from provisional status to full activation by September 1985 — less than 9 months away!
The months flew by as troops tackled multiple simultaneous objectives. Platoons tested individual and collective skill proficiency with incoming new equipment, and they focused on prioritized regimental support and concepts. Progressive and rigorous training ramped up quickly right to the activation date. Regimental squadrons welcomed a transition: from a previous reliance on V Corps support operations in the rear area to preferred integrated regimental logistics mission support. Troops were likewise eager to exercise, test, and demonstrate their proficiency on each Mission Essential Tasks List (METL).
S&T Troop soon provided the doctrinal dedicated supply and equipment transportation assets, centralized ammunition transfer capability, responsive bulk fuel delivery, local warehousing, and other core logistic tasks to sustain 11th ACR’s constant maneuvers and to respond quickly to each combat squadron’s dedicated support missions. Their internal support now sustained more immediate refueling and ammunition support operations for Regiment’s M1 tanks, M3 Bradley fighting vehicles, HEMMTs, and aviation crews.
LT Lechner’s supply platoon would soon welcome the Regimental Commander, Colonel Tom White, to a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening a new Class II & IV warehouse in Fulda in November 1986. With coordination support from HQ CSS, the warehouse was now locally stocked with essential office supplies, tools, combat barrier materiel, and package petroleum products in support of 34 bulk retail customers. Within three years, the mission expanded to include centralized regimental maps storage and a local purchase operation. Centralizing supply stockage in Fulda eliminated most of the need for regimental units to travel to support organizations in the V Corps’ rear area.
The ammunition section exercised innovative methods to provide ammunition forward. Working with the transportation platoon, soldiers established a huge, camouflaged ammunition transfer point (ATP) at the north ammunition holding area in Grafenwohr, emulating the core features of a corps’ ammunition supply point (ASP). On a pre- coordinated schedule, each squadron’s support platoon arrived with HEMMTs to pick up preconfigured ammunition packages.
Eager to further expand operational forward area rearming point (FARP) options and in close coordination with Combat Aviation Squadron, the combined team proved the feasibility of leveraging the 4th Squadron’s UH-1 aircraft & crews to sling load ammunition delivery at a Level 1 gunnery. S&T safely hooked up roughly 36,000 rounds of 20mm and nearly 2,000 2.75-inch rockets at Grafenwöhr. The collaborative effort demonstrated a rapid rearm forward capability, supporting Airland Battle and Army of Excellence concepts. Further expanding S&T’s mission capabilities, CSS coordinated with Regimental HQ, V Corps G-4, and the Air Force to execute a winter airdrop and retrieval operation on a snow-swept field in the German countryside.
Fully activating the Transportation Platoon required the acquisition of authorized transportation assets from a Corps Support Command unit. This necessary action happened pending the arrival of 70 new tactical wheeled vehicles from Army Materiel Command’s vehicle hand-off fielding site in Mainz. The addition of 20 new tractor-cabs enabled progressive hauling of the fleet of tractor-trailers and new M969 (5,000 gallon) fuel tankers in direct support of the squadrons. The new transportation capability immediately expanded the regiment’s dispersed transportation delivery requirements across the Fulda Gap. S&T troop aggressively promoted initial transportation and ammunition training by even responding to a request from the 229th Support Company, 1st Infantry Division, to help upload ammunition from their ASP for an impending exercise.
Newly embedded regimental mission capabilities included a mobile water purification unit and a troop-level mobile cooking trailer, ensuring 24-hour operations to support soldiers across the dispersed regimental area of operation. Within 70 days of activation, the troop had already received a satisfactory rating from the V Corps Maintenance and Inspection Team (MAIT).
S&T Troop’s POL platoon also excelled in delivering 75,000 gallons of JP4, 126,000 gallons of diesel, and 16,000 gallons of MOGAS in support of initial gunnery in Grafenwöhr. Leveraging assigned soldiers’ prior experiences stateside with Forward Area Aviation Refueling capabilities and with regimental support, the POL platoon acquired and configured the new M969 tankers with additional hoses and fittings, and then it teamed with the 1st Squadron to successively demonstrate a rapid M1 refuel capability along a German route. Informed of this success, the regimental commander arranged a demonstration of the innovative “Mobile Armored Cavalry Hot-Refuel (MACH)” system to the V Corps Commander (LTG Colin Powell) during Level 1 Gunnery at Grafenwöhr in 1987. With some Army modifications, this proven regimental fuel delivery concept was adapted as a “Refuel on the Move” solution by the Army.
The Wildflecken community welcomed S&T as a priority unit (with its 300 troops) on the kaserne, and S&T Troop represented the CSS commander at Wildflecken meetings. The garrison commander approved the construction of a critical $195,000 POL tanker hardstand parking area in nearby Arnsberg Kaserne. Completion removed potential German environmental concerns and enhanced security for the regiment’s critical fuel tanker assets. S&T’s troops reciprocated the installation’s support by participating in various local community events; it won, for example, the annual “Run up the Hill” event. Troops also volunteered to operate a very profitable food booth at two annual week-long Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) German-American events. Shared profits helped fund additional barracks equipment and other items for the troops.
To promote NATO interoperability, S&T Troop coordinated a supporting memorandum with Nachschub Kompanie 50, Panzer Grenadier Brigade 5 of the West German Bundeswehr. Troops subsequently combined transportation assets to draw the regiment’s issue of ammunition for a Level 1 Gunnery and collaborated in a joint truck rodeo. Senior troop leaders were fortunate to participate with other regimental units in an officer professional development trip to Arnhem, Holland in February 1986 to analyze the lessons learned in World War Two.
Although not ideal conditions for year-round truck fleet operations, the remote and mountainous Wildflecken location provided one significant advantage over HQ CSS’s location in Fulda: ready access to numerous nearby training ranges, which enhanced squad and platoon-level training skills development. In addition, the officer and NCO leadership focused on promoting many troop morale events. For instance, the command sponsored field trips to various German activities, such as to the Rhein-Main Christmas bazaar; Garmisch-Partenkirchen recreation areas; and the medieval city of Rothenburg-ob-der Tauber.
S&T’s soldiers excelled in off-duty sports and activities as well, resulting in an uncontested USARUER champion boxer in the 125-pound category; a 4th place in Greco wrestling; and a 3rd place finish in V Corps’ 149-lbs freestyle category. The troops would soon represent one-half of the Wildflecken ski team, where many troops learned to ski on the nearby slope for the first time. A newly formed basketball team tied for first place in the local Wildflecken competition. A running team stepped forward and picked up running strategies during their first 11th ACR half-marathon competition. In the first quarter following activation, an exemplary S&T soldier won “Soldier of the Quarter” at both the CSS and regimental levels. Consistent with the 11th ACR’s high standards, numerous S&T soldiers also earned their “spurs” in early 1986.
Combat Support Squadron’s Commander summarized S&T Troop’s accomplishments at the April 1987 change of command ceremony 27 months later: “This organization brings to the regiment a tremendous capability that never before existed to make the regiment even stronger than what it had been . . . S&T has consistently led the way.”