Casing the Colors with the 3rd ESC
You and Jonn [Lilyea] should come down to our casing ceremony. And if you feel really wild, you should come to Afghanistan with us on an embed. – MAJ B.
I’ve been trying to get back to Afghanistan since virtually the minute I returned after my deployment. I almost even took a job that would send me back there before I realized that I had it REALLY good here, and I had just met the woman who would be my wife. Even so, the email from MAJ B. took me by surprise, coming as it did from a reader that I didn’t really know, and coming out of a conversation between two native Massachusians on whether we still loved Tom Brady after the Super Bowl loss. (We both still do.)
I immediately cleared the potential trip through the Legion, which gives me a shocking amount of autonomy to do what I think is needed for a good story, especially on trips like this that won’t cost them much in terms of hotel rooms (I am bringing a tent) and per diem (the Army will give me 3 MREs a day, awesome cuisine.) Next was clearing it through my wife, who didn’t think it would pan out, and acquiesced to it immediately. From there, it was a ton of paperwork and waiting.
But now, the trip is a total go. In fact, last week, I did join my friend Jonn down at the casing ceremony at Fort Knox. For those that haven’t been to one, a flag casing ceremony is a formal event where the colors of the unit are taken down and put into a protective covering for transportation to where the new command will be. The unit I am travelling with, the 3rd ESC. For those (like me) that have no idea what an ESC is:
The Sustainment Command is a United States Army Logistics Headquarters. The Sustainment Command's primary mission is to command the Sustainment Brigades that provide combat support and combat service support in the areas of supply, maintenance, transportation, field services and the functional brigades or battalions that provide medical, general engineering & construction, smoke generation, biological detection and decontamination support. The command is designed to deploy into a theater of operations, assume command of the logistical units in place and provide oversight and materiel management. The command will report to a Theater Sustainment Command while in theater.
I served in an infantry unit, so I understand the basic makeup: 2 fire-teams makes a squad, 4 squads make a platoon, 4 platoons make a company etc. (Give or take attachments etc.) And everyone was the same MOS (11B) or one of the standard attachments like Medics and FO’s. With this ESC, I literally don’t know what some of the guys and girls do. After meeting my PAO buddy MAJ B. (not using any names for now) I met the HHC commander, a young lady who looks harder than woodpecker lips. I’m clear on what HHC does. Then MAJ B. introduced me to his buddies the IG, the Comptroller and the JAG. I’m only vaguely aware of what an IG does (deals with certain complaints?) and the JAG (although what one does in an ESC is still unclear to me) and I have no clue on Comptroller. I guess he’s an accountant? I also was briefly was introduced to the 2 shop (Intel) which has 10 guys.
My point of all this is that it’s almost like an entirely different military than the one I am used to, and I absolutely can’t wait to wrap my arms around it. I was worried I would tire them out with my questions, but everyone I talked to was incredibly gracious.
During the casing ceremony itself, Col. Kristin K. French, the 3d ESC's commander, prepared to move the command to Kandahar. I didn’t get a chance to talk to her, but she is an incredibly good speaker. Hoping to get some time to talk to her, and introduce you to her. She’ll be the first female commander of a huge component in Afghanistan.
So, tomorrow I head out. The schedule is in flux, so bear with me, but check back every few days to see what I have for you.