FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, spent the past seven months training and preparing for joint training exercise Shared Accord 17 in South Africa.
The exercise takes place this month and continues through August.
The preparation for this deployment saw 2-327th Inf. Regt. Soldiers and leaders surmount innumerable hurdles to successfully plan and execute the movement to South Africa. The burden of the planning fell to No Slack's S-4 section, led by Capt. Clay Drnek, 2-327th battalion supply officer.
'This was a lot for such a small unit to handle,' Drnek said.
Drnek said unlike most deployments, this one required only part of the battalion rather than a full brigade and its planning staff. Even with the support of 1st BCT's planning staff, the challenge of preparing to deploy as a battalion was significant.
'We received the mission in January, which gave us over six months to plan, but that coincided with an intensive training cycle and other administrative hurdles,' he said. Among the many obstacles faced by No Slack's planning staff was the closure of Campbell Army Airfield. The personnel deploying with the battalion flew from Nashville International Airport, which brought its own challenges as the staff forged a working relationship with the civilian personnel at the airport and the division transportation office.
The battalion's equipment was loaded into shipping containers and Air Force pallets in the battalion footprint before flying out from Fort Campbell's Sabre Army Airfield on military aircraft.
'This deployment was entirely by air,' Drnek said. 'Even with the airfield closed, we still had to deploy all our personnel and equipment by airplane.'
The bulk of No Slack's equipment was loaded into nine tri-con shipping containers -- a smaller version of the shipping containers seen on truck trailers and shipping vessels across the world. Each weighed more than 3,300 pounds and contained everything from weapons, to spare parts, to food and ammunition. All personal gear was carried by Soldiers as they boarded the plane in Nashville.
Deployment to South Africa required coordination with U.S. Army Africa staff, located in Italy, and numerous South African government agencies. Some equipment and supplies, including 22 vehicles and meals ready to eat, were provided from Army pre-positioned stocks in Europe. South African government agencies had to clear everything that came into the country, including MREs, ammunition and vehicles.
Coordination with U.S. forces in Italy and the South African government were further complicated by the time difference. Both countries are seven hours ahead of Fort Campbell, meaning that No Slack's personnel started the work day as their counterparts in Europe and South Africa finished it.
'A lot of people think of Africa and see jungles and open grasslands. That's not where we're going -- it's rocky and full of sagebrush, very similar to the high country in Arizona and Nevada,' Drnek said. 'Among other things, we had to order specialized supplies like leg gaiters to keep the Soldiers from getting torn up by thorns. We also brought a huge amount of extra tires in preparation for the rocky terrain and poor roads.'
Despite the challenge to overcome innumerable hurdles during preparation and planning, the No Slack Soldiers' successful execution to the operation demonstrated their ability to accomplish any mission they are given.
First BCT is part of the Regionally Aligned Force supporting U.S. Army Africa events and exercises across the African continent this year. Exercises like Southern Accord 17 assist United States allies in building relations and strengthening the multinational coalition in the region.