1st FSSG custom-tailors units in Kuwaiti desert

22 Jan 2003 | Sgt. Colin Wyers

In just a few short days, what was once an empty desert quickly became the rallying point for the 1st Force Service Support Group's portion of the largest Maritime Prepositioning Force offload in the history of the Marine Corps since the Persian Gulf War.

The Arrival and Assembly Operations Element (AAOE) at Camp Wake Island, Kuwait, is where personnel from 1st FSSG meet up with equipment and supplies from military aircraft and vessels, including ships of the Maritime Prepositioning Force.

"This is as big as it gets," said Maj. William Babcock, AAOE assistant officer-in-charge, 37, from Pittsburgh.  "We're processing hundreds of people a day."

The AAOE is a receiving area for several units from 1st FSSG.

"The FSSG in garrison is several functional battalions," said Lt. Col. Rob Higbee, commanding officer of Combat Service Support Company 151, which supports the I Marine Expeditionary Force Command Element and Headquarters Group.  "You've got a supply battalion, a maintenance battalion, Headquarters and Supply Battalion, a transportation support battalion, a medical battalion, a dental battalion, and an engineer support battalion."

Once deployed, the FSSG is broken up into combat service support units that provide key functionality, from medical services to motor transportation, that are individually tailored to provide services to their commands.

"That's part of the challenge for the FSSG," said Higbee, who is 41, from Walnut Creek, Calif.  "We build these organizations from pieces of the functional battalions.  These units don't exist except on paper until the order is given to stand them up.  And when we're done here, they'll stand down, and all these folks go back to the jobs they were doing before."

The Marines of the AAOE are working to rapidly unite the new units with their gear.

"We're moving as fast as possible," said Babcock.  "Marines are working 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week."

Before the first ship pulled in, 1st FSSG built the 42-square-mile AAOE out of empty desert.

"We walked in looking at a flat area with an undeveloped road network," said Babcock.  "What we've done is completely shaped the terrain and the arrival and assembly area to accept Marine Corps assets quickly."

Such quick actions allow the group to support the Marine Corps' expeditionary effort.

"It's the same concept that has been repeated and successful for the Marine Corps," said Babcock.  "The way we employ forces provides the Marine Corps the ability to assemble combat power quickly into a combined air-ground task force."