Combat Service Support--A Concept Of
Operations For Cold Weather Operations
SUBJECT AREA Logistics
Combat Service Support - A Concept of Operations for
Cold Weather Operations
The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
for Written Communications
Major W. F. Deubler
United States Marine Corps
April 6, 1984
Combat Service Support - A Concept of Operations for Cold
Thesis Sentences: Major changes to the concept of combat
service support must be made by the Marine
Corps if timely and effective sustained
support of infantry units is to be ac-
complished in a cold weather environment.
A. Logisticians focus on strategic mobility and
sustained operations ashore
B. Cold weather initiatives since 1976
II. Landings in cold weather and snow
A. Mobility problem with the LVT
B. Loading and landing sequence
III. Time required to build the FCSSA
A. It takes 3 times longer
1. Change the AFOE to D+10
B. Stay on schedule
1. Additional personnel
2. Platooning back to ships
IV. Composition of regimental trains
A. Arctic clothing poses problem
B. Troops carry less basic load
C. Additional vehicle assets must be solved by USMC
A. Marshalling areas on beach required
B. Snow removal problem on main MSRs
A. Use of prime movers
B. Use of BV202 over snow vehicle
VII. Maintenance procedures
A. Restricted use of contact teams
B. Establishing a forward contact team work area
1. Additional assets required
2. Use of Marine Expeditionary Shelter System
A. Change in equipment requires change in concepts
B. Mobility, resupply and snow removal require
Combat Service Support - A Concept of Operations for Cold
Amphibious planning for a MAGTF operation requires de-
tailed, parallel, and concurrent planning at all levels of
command. Within this process the logistician finds himself
embattled in the ultimate test of his skills. Specifically,
he must first concentrate on strategic mobility and then
sustained operations ashore. With the advent of Maritime
Pre-Positioning Ships, concepts are being developed to solve
the strategic mobility problems of the logistician. Sus-
tained operations, on the other hand, though complicated
would not appear to be a logistical problem. After all, the
Marine Corps has conducted hundreds of training operations
involving amphibious operations from which sound concepts of
operations and doctrine have evolved.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. The U.S. Marine
Corps, with forces designated for Supreme Allied Command
Europe's Strategic Reserve has found itself in a role in
which it has a requirement to be ready to fight in the cold-
weather environment of the Northern Flank region of NATO. In
this type environment, the logistician will be confronted
with support problems that have not totally evolved into a
bear concept of support for sustained operations ashore.
Recent recommendations from units conducting cold
weather operations in Norway have included that future train-
ing operations should not exceed the size of a Marine Amphi-
bious Unit. This is interesting in light of the fact that a
civilian reporter, Hanson Baldwin, had made a similar observa-
tion in the 8 February 1947 issue of the New York Times. After
accompanying the 82nd Airborne which was conducting exhaustive
cold weather testing in upper New York State, Mr. Hanson wrote
that "arctic airborne operations, or arctic operations of a
conventional force larger than a battalion are well nigh im-
possible."1 In both these instances, the conclusions were
based on the problems inherent to logistical support.
At first glance, you might conclude that little has been
done in 37 years to solve logistical problems that are as-
sociated with a cold weather environment. This is not
necessarily true. Since the Marine Corps received its com-
mitment to assist in the defense or Norway, an incredible
effort has been made to properly train and equip Marines to
fight in a cold-weather environment. Since 1976, cold
weather initiatives include conducting numerous training
exercises in Norway, reopening of the Mountain Warfare Train-
ing Center, establishing a working group to oversee the
development of cold-weather related equipment, incorporating
standards for cold-weather operations as part of the Marine
Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation System (MCCRES), designating
a centralized cold-weather coordinating authority at Head-
quarters, U.S. Marine Corps, and commissioning a private
concern to conduct a comprehensive, independent cold weather
combat operations study.
As a result of the various recommendations that have
emanated from cold weather after action reports, conferences
and the independent study, numerous improvements to combat
service support equipment have been adopted by the Marine
Corps. However, Marine logisticians must recognize that new
equipment is not the panacea to success in cold weather opera-
tions. Major changes to the concept of combat service support
must be made by the Marine Corps if timely and effective
sustained support of infantry units is to be accomplished in
a cold weather environment.
One possible scenario that may be considered in order to
develop a concept of combat service support and to assist
in the identification of changes that must be made would be
the isolation of northern Norway by Soviet forces during the
winter months. A Marine Amphibious Force may have to be
landed into southern Norway in the vicinity of Hague and at
the airfield at Lista with a mission to attack north to seize
the port city of Stavanger and the airfields at Sola-Forus.
In this particular case, a warm weather landing would
entail the classic amphibious landing with waves of amphi-
bious tractors followed by landing craft. Since this scenario
assumes the threat to be in North Norway, the landing would
be relatively unopposed. The off loading of assault echelon
supplies would continue through D+5 with the Assault Follow-
On Echelon (AFOE) arriving thereafter. As the MAF is moving
north they would be supported by regimental trains which
would be initially resupplied from the Force Combat Service
Support Area (FCSSA) which is rapidly developing at Hague.
As the operation progresses, a forward combat service sup-
port area would probably be established in the vicinity of
Naebro to support the final phase of the assault on Stavanger.
A closer look at this same scenario in cold weather will
result in major considerations by the logistician and changes
to the concept of combat service support. These major con-
siderations and changes will focus on the landing, the time
required to build the Force Combat Service Support Area
(FCSSA), composition of regimental trains, mobility, resupply,
and maintenance procedures.
With regard to the landing, the Landing Vehicles Tracked
(LVT) will have extreme difficulty getting off the beach if
there is more than thirty inches of snow on the ground.2
This very problem was incurred by the 36th MAU during Coldex
81. In this case, Marines were landed in landing craft to
secure the beach while Norwegian bulldozers were used to
clear a path so the LVTs could land.3
This particular problem calls for a complete change to
the Marine Corps' embarkation phase of combat service support
since we cannot count on indigenious personnel to be on hand
with snow removal equipment. Bulldozers will have to be
loaded so as to be in the 1st or 2nd wave. Moreover, planners
must be able to tap additional resources from the Naval Con-
struction Battalion to ensure that the landing force has
adequate assets. This problem also affects the operational
planner since the initial assault waves will have to be landed
in naval landing craft vice amphibious tractors.
The next major consideration will be the build-up of
supplies and equipment on the beach and the establishment of
the Force Combat Service Support Area. During a warm weather
operation, this responsibility is a very tedious, strenuous
phase of the operation because of the heavy work involved in
off-loading the ships and positioning supplies and equipment
by functional area. Marines assigned to the Landing Force
Support Party know that this is a critical phase of the con-
bat operation because major resupply of the units pressing on
Stavanger will be required. In a cold weather operation,
there are three major considerations which the logistician
is going to have to consider during the buildup of the FCSSA:
time, fatigue, and wet troops. Since 1976, every after-action
report and in-depth study on cold weather operations have
addressed the fact that it takes 3 times longer to perform
normal tasks in cold weather. Since this factor also affects
infantry units, there should be no problem with the time to
build up supplies since infantry operations are going to be
slowed down accordingly. However, there will be a problem
with being ready to off-load the Assault Follow-On Echelon
at D+5. This will probably have to be moved back to a mini-
mum of D+10 unless the Landing Force Support Party is aug-
mented with additional personnel from the Division and Wing
units. This augmentation appears even more of a feasible
consideration when considering fatigue and wet troops as a
With regard to fatigue and wet troops, there seems to be
a universal acceptance that a fully trained and physically
conditioned Marine does not function effectively for the
initial several days when he is displaced from a warmer cli-
mate to a cold environment. It is also reasonable to expect
that as in warm weather landings, those Marines working in
the Beach Support Area will get wet during the performance
of off-loading vehicles and supplies from the landing craft.
In a cold weather operation, this will result in numerous
cold weather injuries if these Marines are permitted to oper-
ate under these conditions for very long. Currently, there
is only one alternative to this problem. The troops will
have to be evacuated to the ships where they can get warm,
eat a warm meal,and have their wet clothes dried in the ships
laundry. Warming tents may be used on the beach but they
will not serve to dry the heavy arctic clothing. This pro-
cedure will require platooning the LFSP into working parties.
This requires another change to the concept of combat service
support for the Landing Force Support Party.
The Marine Corps has not really addressed this problem
in any detail; however, they have introduced plans for a new
combined laundry and bath unit (CLABU).4 It will not be
capable of handling insulated winter clothing; therefore,
planning factors for front line troops must include evacuation
of arctic insulated clothing back to the FCSSA for cleaning
by the bulk laundry units of the Force Service Support Group.
This exchange of outer clothing is mandatory since the insu-
lation properties in the arctic clothing will become less
effective as they are soiled.5
From this fact, it becomes obvious that the composition
of regimental supply trains may be taking on an added dimen-
sion. Normally, these trains consisting primarily of 5 ton
prime movers will follow the assault echelons within 15
kilometers and consist of 45-50 trucks. They will primarily
be carrying three classes of supply: subsistence, petroleum,
Henceforth, these trains must be capable of carrying a
change of arctic clothing for the entire regiment. Moreover,
planning factors must include a change of inner garments but
not necessarily on a 1 to 1 ratio since introduction of the
CLABU will alleviate the cleaning problem for undergarments
of the assault regiments. The CLABU unit will be helicopter
transportable thus a concept of combat service support should
include this as the primary means of transportation since
regimental trains will be swelling in size as a result of the
additional cold weather clothing.
The primary consideration the logistician will have to
keep in mind is that under normal winter conditions, 65 to 70
pounds is the maximum weight a man can normally wear and
carry.6 Since 45 to 55 pounds of clothing and equipment is
required for protection and comfort of each Marine under con-
ditions of extreme cold, his basic load of food and ammunition
will have to be reduced.7 In order to accomplish this re-
duction, regimental trains will again be taxed. We are pro-
bably looking at an additional 25 trucks for each train,thus
a new problem surfaces that has not been resolved.
The additional trucks required in the regimental trains
are going to have to come from somewhere. Should the Marine
Corps configure its Force Service Support Group to provide
this added requirement? Should critical resupply be air
dependent in light of weather and threat constraints? If
the decision is to go with what we have, do we strip the
FCSSA of its assets or do we decrease the mobility of the
reserves? These questions must be answered now before the
MAF logisticians can refine their concept of combat service
Assuming the problem of regimental trains can be re-
solved with regards to their composition, the planner must
now consider their mobility and the means by which battalions
will be able to effect the actual resupply of the front line
The problem of mobility begins back at the beach. If
as stated with the amphibians, there is more than 30 inches
or snow, the off-loading of the 5 ton trucks will be difficult
at best. The LFSP will have to ensure a marshalling area is
established for the purpose of placing cleated, highly durable
tire chains on all wheeled vehicles. This, of course, re-
quires a dedicated work force. This additional marshalling
area and work force will constitute an additional change to
established combat service support concepts for beach opera-
tions. Also within this marshalling area selected 5 ton
vehicles will have to be equipped with commercial snowplow
attachments. The new 5 ton series trucks being purchased by
the Marine Corps will be compatible for such attachments so
previous expedients such as engineer motorized graders, bull-
dozers and bucket loaders will not have to be relied on for
the sole source of snow removal as the operation progresses
Since snow removal equates to mobility, this aspect of
combat service support must receive optimum attention during
the detailed,parallel, and concurrent planning with the
operational planners. In this regard, it would appear feas-
ible for the logistician to develop a new appendix to the
Combat Service Support Annex of the Operation Plan. This
annex must identify vehicles to be used with dedicated,
trained drivers. Moreover, the appendix should also break
down the operation into three phases: clearing and mainten-
ance of the Main Supply Route (MSR), expeditionary airfields
and landing zones, and FCSSA and forward CSSAs.
The main assault regiments will have to place their snow
removal trucks well forward. In this regard, it is not en-
visioned that more than 4 plow configured trucks will be
needed with the lead elements because of the narrow MSRs in
Norway. Since economy of space is important due to the
limited number of trucks available to support the logistics
trains, these vehicles will also have to be loaded with re-
supply items. It will also be important to consider the
types of supplies that will be transported by these vehicles.
For instance, it would be unsound planning to have petroleum
or ammunition carried in these vehicles.
The regimental trains, on the other hand, though they
will be up to 15 kilometers behind the lead battalions, must
be equipped with as many plows as economically feasible.
There are three primary reasons for this. First, the primary
MSR, which in this scenario will be Route 40, will be com-
pacted by continous heavy traffic. This will cause a rapid
melt situation which will make trafficability for the regi-
mental trains extremely difficult. Secondly, the plows may
be needed to bear helicopter landing zones for resupply of
the trains. Finally, an adequate quantity will be needed at
Naebro to begin clearing operations for the forward Combat
Service Support Area. Failure to plan accordingly will most
certainly slow the advance of the assault echelons.
Resupply in this scenario requires an additional con-
sideration. Though a change in concept of support is not
required, there is one major consideration which must be given
weight by the logistical planner. Under normal weather con-
ditions, forward battalions would be resupplied by sending
prime movers back to the trains or a midway rendezvous point.
The regimental trains would more than likely be resupplied by
helicopter. This procedure may still be used; however, front
line units must now consider the use of the BV202 Over Snow
Vehicle. Depending on the actual distance and location of
the units from the regimental trains, it may be more econo-
mical to send these vehicles directly to the regimental trains
instead of using organic prime movers. If adequate resupply
can be accomplished in this manner, this procedure may also
serve to help keep the main MSR from being overly congested
with vehicle traffic.
One final consideration that is going to result in a
major change to the concept of combat service support lies in
the area of maintenance. As in a warm weather campaign, suc-
cess of the mission is going to depend heavily on the avail-
ability of weapons and equipment. This means continual
support. Maintenance problems will be more difficult to
correct in cold weather because of the restricted use of con-
tact teams. Current doctrine relies heavily on contact
teams moving forward to perform corrective maintenance; how-
ever, this use of contact teams in cold weather will not be
feasible for two reasons: reduction of spare parts in the
regimental trains and lack of a mobile heated facility to
perform the maintenance.
One possible alternative to this problem would be the
establishment of a forward contact team work area midway be-
tween the FCSSA and the proposed CSSA at Naebro and then mid-
way between the CSSA at Naebro and the final objective at
Stavanger. This procedure, though not totally satisfactory,
would reduce the distance equipment would have to be evacu-
ated. Also, it would be most beneficial in cases where prime
movers would be evacuating heavy equipment on 40 ton lowboy
trailers since it will reduce diesel consumption.
The contact team work area would have to employ the use
of the new Marine Corps Expeditionary Shelter System.9 In
addition to this shelter and maintenance personnel, dedicated
heavy equipment operators and drivers must be available to
evacuate equipment from the assault regiments to this area
and, if required, back to the FCSSA.
Regardless of future recommendations and improvements to
specific equipment categories for the cold weather environ-
ment, the Marine Corps must formulate specific concepts of
combat service support for their application. The individual
Marine has a high degree of "esprit de Corps" and has proven
to be innovative in the worst of conditions; however, cold
weather combat operations is not the place for innovation.
Failure to get off the beach because of snow trafficability
problems could recreate the casualties amassed during the
seizure of Tarawa in WWII,where it was the coral reefs and
not snow, that stopped the amphibians. As in any amphibious
operation, a steady flow of supplies from the FCSSA to the
lead regiments can only be accomplished by a continous con-
certed effort by support personnel. This is going to require
special attention to the effects of the cold weather on their
ability to work around the clock.
The composition of our logistics trains is going to re-
quire an evolution in doctrine that parallels the same inten-
sive effort that was used to develop the embarkation phase
of the amphibious operation. Getting the right supplies in
sufficient quantity to our combat troops at the proper time
is the very essence of combat service support.
Finally, snow removal operations is nothing to be taken
for granted and requires dedicated planning. This phase of
cold weather operations could very well prove to be the
Marine Corps' Achilles' heel!
1McGill, Robert A., Logistical Support of the Marine
Division in Snow and Extreme Cold, 1 July 1948, p. 13.
2Northrop Services, Inc., US Marine Corps Cold Weather
Combat 0perations Study: Preliminary Report, Aug. 1980,
36th MAR/36th MAU AAR for Cold Winter 81 and COLDEX 81
(2d MAR DIV Admin Records, ACOS G-1, 2d MAR DIV, Camp
4Northrop Services, Inc., Conference on Cold Weather
Combat Operations: Final Report, June 1982, p. 25.
56th MAR/36th MAU AAR, p. 30.
6DOA, USA, Basic Cold Weather Manual, FM 31-70
(Washington, D.C., 1968), p. 5.
7Ibid, p. 5.
8Northrop Services, Inc., August 1980, p. 7-18.
9Ibid, p. 7-40.
McGill, Robert. Marine Corps Schools. Logistical Support
of the Marine Division in Snow and Extreme Cold.
Breckenridge Library, Quantico, 1948.
Northrop Services, Inc. Conference On Cold Weather Combat
Operations: Final Report. Arlington, VA, 1982.
Northrop Services, Inc. U.S. Marine Corps Cold Weather
Combat Operations Study: Preliminary Report.
Arlington, VA, 1980.
U.S. Army. Headquarters, Department of the Army. Basic
Cold Weather Manual, FM 31-70. Washington, D.C., 1968.
U.S. Army. Headquarters, Department of the Army. Northern
Operations, FM 31-71. Washington, D.C., 1971.
U.S. Army. 172d Light Infantry Brigade Staff. Arctic Tips.
U. S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Development and Education
Command. Arctic Mobility Study. Quantico, 1977.
U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Development and Education
Command. Cold Weather Operations Hand Book, OH 8-5
U.S. Marine Corps. 6th Marines/36th MAU. After Action Report
for Cold Winter 81 and COLDEX 81 (2d MAR DIV Admin Records),
Washington, D.C., 1981.
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