Michigan Soldiers support timber haul in South Dakota

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RAPID CITY, S.D. — In early June, elements of the 272nd Regional Support Group, Michigan National Guard, turned their windshields westward and headed for Rapid City, S.D. for Operation Golden Coyote.

Members of the 1463rd Transportation Company and the 464th Quartermaster Company made the nearly 1,200 mile trek to Rapid City to provide logistical support to OGC. The 464th provided laundry and shower service to the nearly 4,000 Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen in this multinational joint service exercise in its thirtieth year.

“We’re doing a real-world mission here,” said Capt. Thomas VandenBosch, commander of the 1463rd Transportation Company. “We’re getting great training for our drivers and providing a humanitarian service as well.”

The transportation company provided support to a timber hauling mission. The trucks picked up the already cut timber one day, and delivered to several Native American reservations the next. The timber was not build quality, but it provided much needed firewood for heat during the harsh winters in the Badlands.

“All the wood is used and nothing is wasted,” said Doug Dupruis of the Cheyenne River Housing Authority. Dupruis, a Native American himself, was one of the key coordinators of the timber haul mission.

While the Soldiers of the TC provided service and support to those outside the operation, the 464th Quartermaster Company was making life better for those within.

“Life for a Soldier in the field is demanding,” said Lt. Col. Beth Peters, executive officer for the 272nd Regional Support Group. “Clean clothes and personal hygiene can make a difference when you’re spending weeks in the elements, away from the comfort and conveniences of home.”

The laundry services, in three locations, averaged 150 to 200 individual’s laundry per day. Laundry was cleaned, folded, and returned to the Soldier in a matter of hours. During the exercise, 3,308 bags laundry were washed.

“I never had this in the field before,” said one Soldier after picking up his clothes. “This is great!”

Supporting OGC not only provided key training opportunities for the Michigan Soldiers, but also provided attractions unique to the region as well. The Black Hills are home to Mt. Rushmore and several other iconic American landmarks.

“We’re hoping to allow our Soldiers an opportunity to see some of the local attractions,” said 1st Lt. Rebecca Rodriguez, 272nd RSG Headquarters Detachment Commander. “For some, it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

On June 14th, Staff Sgt. James Lancaster took advantage of that opportunity and reenlisted for six years at the Mount Rushmore National Monument.

“It’s the Army’s 239th birthday, it’s Flag Day, and I’ll never have another opportunity like this to reenlist,” said Lancaster. After the oath was administered, members of the unit and 300 onlookers sang the National Anthem.

In addition to unique sightseeing opportunities, the Michigan Soldiers also saw some of the local wildlife. Buffalo, pronghorn (often called antelope), and cougar were often sighted at the unit’s remote locations.

The transportation company conducted 203 line haul missions. One hundred fifty-four of those missions were hauling timber to Native American reservations.

The unit logged 172,300 miles and delivered an estimated 539 tons of fire wood to the reservations.

“It’s a huge success for us,” stated Lt. Col. Bryon Gerwolds, operations officer for the 272nd. “We got more than a year’s worth of training in two weeks. We helped our fellow service members and provided a humanitarian service to the Native Americans on the reservations. It’s win-win.”

Story and photos by Master Sgt. Ron Raflik, Michigan National Guard Public Affairs