Story by MAJ Brandon Mace on 08/26/2019FORT DIX, N.J. Postal units from across the U.S. Army Reserve came here for Postal Warrior 19-2 from Aug. 10 to 30, 2019.
Postal Warrior 19 is a standalone 21 day, task-focused exercise, designed to train and challenge postal units in the skill sets and competencies needed to support Theater Postal Operations and increase individual and collective readiness. The exercise was planned and led by the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Leo Devora, the Postal Warrior 19 OIC from the 4th ESC, was the commander of a postal unit when he was a captain in 2003. He led the 316th Adjutant General Company as they deployed to Iraq to conduct postal operations, so this mission is close to his heart. He wanted to ensure the training was high quality and as realistic as possible.
"In a real deployment, units are going to be responsible for delivering mail, and attacks like small arms or sniper fire are a reality," said Devora. "We want to give them an opportunity to experience that, and react and refresh their combat skills."
For this iteration, each unit drove their vehicles on mail delivery convoys where they were attacked by opposing forces using simulated artillery and blank ammunition. Devora said it raised the overall level of the exercise and the readiness of each Soldier.
"We are all Soldiers at the end of the day. We have to be able to defend ourselves and each other, and react effectively," said Devora. "We have to be able to survive to do our mission with a level of confidence that we can protect each other."
Pfc. Nicholas Rivers, a human resources specialist with the 678th Postal Detachment from Sheffield, Alabama, is at Postal Warrior 19 as both a trainee and as part of the opposing force conducting the simulated ambushes on his fellow Soldiers.
"It adds a more realistic feel," said Rivers. "You can see how an ambush would really play out and get to practice reacting to it."
Having an opposing force not only adds realism for the trainees but gives the opposing force a chance to see operations from the enemy's point of view. Rivers enjoyed his role, but more importantly, he feels it has improved his readiness as he saw the mistakes each unit made in reacting to the ambushes.
"I'm learning that as soon as we stop we are vulnerable. It is too easy to ambush," said Rivers. "We need to be prepared to act faster and keep our eyes open."
Another Soldier attending the training was Sgt. Jennifer Linnstaedter, a human resources specialist, from the 678th Adjutant General Company, from Nashville, Tennessee. To prepare her unit for the training convoys, or postal rodeos as she called them, she held a convoy brief where she and other leaders reviewed the actions they should take if they were attacked.
"We can utilize what we learned in the classroom here in the field," said Linnstaedter. "If the training ended after the classroom, and you never practice anything, you forget. Here we are getting the hands-on training we need."
Linnstaedter knows how important postal operations can be for Soldiers and their families. In addition to being an Army Reserve Soldier herself, she is also married to an Army Reserve Soldier.
"He was deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer in 2014-2015," said Linnstaedter, "and I sent him a lot of care packages. Now I get to be a part of that support and service."
That focus on postal support and service is what makes this training unique. In the past, many postal units have attended larger exercises where they have primarily trained on tactical Soldier tasks, while Postal Warrior 19 zeros in on postal skill sets. Devora said the challenge going forward is striking a balance between the two.
"I am recommending we do this again in combination with a larger exercise," said Devora. "It is critical that postal units do their mission combined with a larger exercise so that the other Soldiers actually become our customers and we do our Soldier tasks alongside other units."
After two iterations, seeing nearly 600 postal Soldiers from 12 Army Reserve units trained, the exercise has been a success. Devora said it was great to see everyone come together to complete the mission.
"There is definitely a sense of teamwork here, from those running the exercise in combination with the Soldiers being trained," said Devora. "Regardless of our roles, there is comradery and a common goal that everyone is working toward."
The 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) is made up of Soldiers, civilians and their families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America's Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.