Tactical Logistics Supporting the Warfighter for OEF
Section 1: 10th Forward Support Battalion 'On Steroids' Supporting Full-Spectrum Combat Operations
LTC Rodney D. Edge
Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2004 issue of Quartermaster Professional Bulletin.
Putting together the right support package in southeastern Afghanistan to sustain a coalition task force consisting of more than 5,000 Soldiers responsible for an area the size of the state of Texas appeared to be a very daunting and arduous task on paper. The Army's FM 63-20 (Forward Support Battalion) in the combat service support series did not lend itself to being the proper blueprint to guarantee success from a doctrinal standpoint in this type of combat operation. Instead of the normal brigade support area (BSA) or field train support concept, mission success July 2003-May 2004 during Operation Enduring Freedom IV meant that Soldiers and junior leaders had to be proficient in requisite skill sets and basic core competencies at the collective and individual levels. Mission success was defined in terms of accomplishing everything required to meet the needs of the warfighters through nondoctrinal means.
Developing the right mix of sustainers and medical personnel for support was not easy during Operation Enduring Freedom IV. An even bigger challenge was deploying a light forward support battalion (FSB) into combat, in essence with all new senior leadership. The mission of the 10th FSB was to sustain full spectrum combat operations and humanitarian operations of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). This was a coalition brigade task force that included French, Romanian, Afghanistan Militia Force (AMF) soldiers, Afghan troops and mostly US Army Soldiers as Operation Enduring Freedom continued. The 10th FSB mission also included area support to the US Air Force, US Marines, and the many contracted personnel and humanitarian organizations operating at or near Kandahar Army Airfield in Afghanistan.
The 10th FSB deployed to Afghanistan with a new battalion commander, executive officer, support operations officer, combat health services officer, battalion S3 (Operations Officer), battalion S4 (Logistics Officer), two new company commanders, two new first sergeants and several new lieutenants. Most had assumed command or positions of responsibility only 45 to 60 days before deployment from Fort Drum, NY. Everyone understood that any and all lags in training and leader synchronization had to be corrected in the 10th FSB' s forward area of operation. The division support command (DISCOM) commander, previous battalion commander and staff's mission analysis determined that a light FSB of 188 Soldiers would not be able to fully achieve mission success without many enablers from the assigned corps support battalion and other DISCOM units such as the materiel management center, sister FSBs and main support battalions (MSBs). The 10th FSB' s total strength grew to more than 450 Soldiers.
Tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for Operation Enduring Freedom IV were learned at an extraordinary pace after arriving in Afghanistan and were incorporated into the 10th FSB 's Relief in Place (RIP) and Transition of Authority (TOA) from the 307th FSB, 82d DISCOM, Fort Bragg, NC. Initially, accelerating TTPs and acclimating Soldiers to altitude and extreme weather conditions were the catalysts for mission success. The FSB commander's intent was simple and relied on these three criteria: "Nothing fails due to logistics," "Risk analysis and safety will be incorporated into all we do," and "All missions will be thoroughly rehearsed before execution." Situations that would appear complex became relatively easy after all leaders understood the basic intent and then Soldier skill sets and core competencies were tailored for the environment.
Transportation and Movements
The geography of southeastern Afghanistan coupled with force protection issues - predominantly concerns about ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) of enemy Taliban forces and the anticoalition militias - were key factors in movement. It was virtually impossible to use the Army's FMTV ILMTV (family of medium tactical vehicles/light medium tactical vehicles) and platform loading system (PLS) for ground convoys to sustain 151 Brigade Combat Team elements operating out of forward operating bases (FOBs) throughout the coalition task force's area of responsibility. After considering the long distances, small mountainous trails, unimproved roads and altitudes ranging from 3,000 feet to more than 9,000 feet, the 10lh FSB had to rely on local host nation trucks (nicknamed "Jingle Trucks") and drivers as the primary way to distribute commodities to support warfighters forward. The key to making "Jingle Trucks" work to the Army's advantage was to assign a congenial 88N (Transportation Movement Coordinator) known affectionately as the Army's "Jingle Man" to work with local nationals. Aerial delivery methods including "kicker pallets," Container Delivery System (CDS) and sling load were other alternatives for orchestrating routine and emergency resupply forward without putting Soldiers in convoys and exposing them to many unknown dangers. The use of "Jingle Trucks" provided more comfort and ensured that Soldiers' lives were saved. At the same time, "Jingle Trucks" reduced the reliance on air frames normally required to push supplies forward.
At Kandahar Army Airfield, the 10th FSB had operational control of a movement control team from the 330th Movements Control Battalion, Ist Corps Support Command (COSCOM), Fort Bragg, NC. The movement control team was assigned to the Joint Logistics Command in Bagram, Afghanistan. These officers and Soldiers who performed airfield departure/arrival group functions were assisted by Soldiers from the 710th MSB and 10th DISCOM Movements Control who had the responsibility of performing container release point tasks.
Modem doctrine states that light FSBs should have no more than two days of supply on hand to sustain combat operations. During Operation Enduring Freedom IV, the 10th FSB operated what was, in effect, a troop issue support activity staffed with up to 40 Soldiers with the 92A (Automated Logistical Specialist) military occupational specialty. On average, the 10th FSB had 30 days of Unitized Group Rations-A/B (UGRs-A/B), specialty meals, and Meals, Ready To Eat (MREs) on hand with supplements such as fresh fruits, vegetables, juice and sodas. This was indeed indicative of an FSB conducting a MSB/corps support battalion mission.
All Class I (rations) and food items that arrived in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom IV were coordinated through the Joint Logistics Command in Bagram by the food service technician assigned to the 10th FSB. Requisitions were sent to the prime vendor in Bahrain and arrived about six weeks later. All items traveled across the Arabian Sea to the port of Karachi, Pakistan, and then went forward via "Jingle Truck" to Kandahar because there was no reinforcing US Army unit available for this task. Fresh fruits and vegetables were normally delivered twice a week by chartered aircraft to reduce food spoilage. The Class I section would then conduct a ration break for Soldiers stationed in Kandahar and those positioned forward at various fire bases. After five months of operation, government contractors augmented the 10th FSB. The Class I mission then was staffed by government contract personnel, allowing the 10th FSB to focus more on its tactical mission.
The 10th FSB deployed with four Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units (ROWPUs) and an augmentation of 92W (Water Treatment Specialist) Quartermasters and leaders from the MSB. Of these four ROWPUs, two remained in Kandahar and two were deployed forward to support operations away from the main area of concentration. Water consumption was very high. Water from the ROWPUs primarily was used in the showers of the Force Provider tent cities and in cooking and commercial laundry facilities. Procured by contract, bottled water was the greatest of all force multipliers during Enduring Freedom IV. Water procured regionally was purchased only if it met specific guidelines and requirements established by the Department of the Army. All water used during Operation Enduring Freedom IV by US military, coalition forces and contractors, regardless of distribution method, was tested routinely by Task Force Preventive Medical personnel.
Supply Support Activity (SSA), Multicommodity Warehouse Operations for Supply Classes II (general supplies), IV (construction and barrier materiel), VII (major end items) and IX (repair parts)
The SSA was the largest and busiest operation for the 10th FSB. During an average week, the 92A Quartermasters received and processed more than 99 pallets of various classes of durable, expendable, nonexpendable supplies and repair parts and also handled all incoming contract air shipments from direct vendor purchases. This operation performed wholesale and retail logistics operations, and all accountable officer functions associated with making the operations efficient. Document processing time was reduced to hours instead of days. By the end of the 10th FSB's deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom IV, this warehouse met and exceeded all Department of the Army standards for receipt processing, line item number (LINs) zero balances, and LIN zero balances with due-outs.
Through Dollar Cost Banding, the Soldiers and leaders who ran this operation saved millions of dollars by retrograding thousands of items back into the Army supply system. These Soldiers handled all incoming supplies for all agencies operating forward to include the US Air Force, US Marines, US Army and US Special Forces. In total, the 10th FSB's Soldiers in the SSA accounted for more than 3,800 LINs of various commodities on a daily basis.
Bulk Class III (petroleum, oils and lubricants or POL)
This was another area that was a nondoctrinal mission for a light FSB. Maybe the better way to sum up the mission with bulk Class III is to say that this was another area requiring some adjustment and immediate training to ensure success. The 10th FSB was augmented once again by the MSB to handle a massive bulk Class III mission. The 10th FSB also was augmented with Soldiers in the US Army Reserve (USAR) from the 877th Quartermaster Company (POL), EI Paso, TX. This augmentation included several 92F (Petroleum Supply Specialist) and 92L (Petroleum Laboratory Specialist) Soldiers in addition to Soldiers from the 10th Mountain DISCOM.
These Soldiers accounted for more than 800,000 gallons of fuel each day. Fuel used in Afghanistan was managed by the Defense Energy Supply Center (DESC) in Bahrain. The fuel received in Afghanistan was Jet-A fuel refined in Pakistan and then delivered by contract truck to Kandahar where fuel handlers would inject the required additives to convert it to JP-8 fuel. In February 2004, a change of vendors resulted in direct delivery of JP-8 to Kandahar Army Airfield and thus eliminated the need for further fuel conversion. This change was a result of using the Defense Logistics Agency's Fuel Automation System (FAS). As operations and airflow simultaneously increased, the stockage objective increased from 800,000 gallons of JP-8 to more than one million gallons per day.
Class V (ammunition)
The 10th FSB mission began and ended with operating a joint ammunition supply point (ASP) and ammunition holding area (AHA) on an old Soviet-era aircraft storage facility. Doctrine would lead all to believe that FSBs operate ammunition transfer points (ATPs). However, because the 10th FSB was operating from a fixed base, once again its mission became nondoctrinal for any type of FSB. All ammunition for Operation Enduring Freedom IV at Kandahar Army Airfield was shipped by air and then managed, handled and stored by Soldiers from the 10th FSB and a platoon from the 395th Ordnance Company, a USAR unit from Wisconsin, and an ammunition officer attached from 1st COSCOM, Fort Bragg, NC. Ammunition throughout Operation Enduring Freedom IV was in limited supply for certain Department of Defense Identification Codes (DODICs). However, no mission suffered from the inability to properly manage and handle coalition task force ammunition.
The 10th FSB Support Operations Section is authorized a staff sergeant, a 92M (Mortuary Affairs Specialist), to manage and coordinate mortuary affairs for the brigade coalition task force. The 10th FSB deployed with a 92M Quartermaster in the rank of E4 who managed mortuary affairs for the task force. The 10th FSB also was augmented with three Soldiers from the 54th Quartermaster Company, Fort Lee, VA, who actually operated the lOth FSB mortuary affairs site.
Many supported units did not understand their responsibilities for properly handling human remains and inventorying the personal effects of deceased Soldiers. Within three weeks of deployment, the 10th FSB successfully trained all key supply personnel in all task force units on basic unit responsibilities for mortuary affairs. Training included making sure that all units had the updated Army and Combined Joint Operating Area (CJOA) policies for handling deceased Soldiers. During Operation Enduring Freedom IV, 92M Soldiers with the 10th FSB processed the remains of several US Soldiers and civilian contractors, including Afghan nationals.
All rigging of the CDS for Combined Task Force Warrior (l51 Brigade Combat Team) and US Special Forces was handled by a platoon of riggers from the 647th Aerial Delivery Company, Fort Bragg, NC, 1st COSCOM. Although most supplies were delivered via "Jingle Truck" and sling load, the riggers served as the most valuable asset to meet task force contingency and emergency resupply needs throughout the most austere locations in southeastern Afghanistan. The riggers also built hundreds of "kicker pallets" for the delivery of vital supplies by using low-altitude parachute drops from CH-47 helicopters.
Operational readiness for the 10th FSB never fell below 95 percent throughout Operation Enduring Freedom IV. For the brigade coalition task force, it never fell below 94 percent for major equipment and weapons systems. The supply system was the victory of the 10th FSB mechanics maintaining, meeting and exceeding US Army standards for organization and direct support maintenance. Order Ship Time (OST) during Operation Enduring Freedom IV was better than any that most Soldiers had experienced with using the Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS) in a tactical or field environment.
Although Afghanistan represents the most austere tactical environment imaginable, the 10th FSB was resourced with supply and maintenance Logistics Assistance Representatives (LARs) from the US Army Materiel Command (AMC) and the US Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM). The 10th FSB also had the luxury of open access to contacting vendors and commodity managers by using direct dial-up telephone connections to speed up the requisition process. Because of this, Customer Wait Time (CWT) for repair parts ranged between 15 and 22 calendar days from request by customer unit to issue for the duration of the operation. The standard Class IX requisitioning process in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom IV was the Unit Level Logistics System (ULLS) to SARSS "blasting" to 32lst Corps, Theater Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Service Center Forward (CTAS FWD) in Kuwait to 321st CTAS in Baton Rouge, LA. The 10th FSB also had the ability to use item managers from the Joint Logistics Command (JLC), an organization consisting of mostly 10th Mountain DISCOM staff and materiel management personnel who ran split operations in Kandahar and Bagram, Afghanistan, to call in high priority requests for pacing items and other critical combat systems.
The 10th FSB Medical Company was augmented with personnel from the MSB, the 44th Medical Brigade and the 911th Forward Surgical Team. In essence, "Charlie Med" was masquerading as a combat support hospital forward more so than an FSB's forward medical company. This medical unit was equipped with every function imaginable, and this was directly responsible for saving the lives of many US Soldiers and local civilians.
Fuel, water and ammunition were the most valued commodities to sustain combat operations in southeastern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom IV. Without a steady and seamless flow of these highly critical resources, the global war on terrorism in this region of the world cannot be won. The following lists provide a "snapshot" of what 10th FSB Soldiers accomplished during the first eight months of Operation Enduring Freedom IV:
When most senior leaders would visit and ask about the 10th FSB's organization, I would state that I really did not know what kind of battalion the 10th FSB was in Afghanistan - but one thing I knew for sure was that we were not the Army's light FSB. Because the 10th FSB mission was so untraditional, I called the 10th an "FSB on steroids." The greatest lesson learned during this deployment was that training is a never-ending process, especially when personnel are being integrated from many different units to form one multifunctional logistics team.
FM 3 (Combat Operations) and FM 4 (Logistics Management) stress what logisticians have to do to help the Soldier achieve success in full spectrum combat operations. These field manuals also discuss situational understanding through having a common operational picture (COP) between the logistics and combat commander in the area of operation and responsibility. All 10th FSB Soldiers and leaders, regardless of rank, found the need for a COP true while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan. Although many junior Soldiers and leaders may not express the Army's new logistics doctrine in these terms, what they did communicate indeed points to the Army's intent in new combat service support (CSS) and operations doctrine.
The 10th FSB redeployed to Fort Drum without reducing the CSS footprint and without working toward being more distribution-based in Afghanistan. However, the military structure, geographical makeup of Afghanistan and force protection measures of this war on terrorism in Southwest Asia did not allow the 10th FSB to do so. The most important truth I will take away from this Operation Enduring Freedom IV is that "Nothing failed due to logistics." The logisticians of the 10th FSB are the epitome of the Quartermaster Ethos " ... Soldiers first, technicians second to none; battle focused ... "