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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005





Part IV

Sustaining the Campaign


Chapter 12
Logistics and Combat Service Support Operations

 

Command, Control, and Communications for CSS Operations

The 3d COSCOM leaders took part in two prewar exercises while still in Germany as well as numerous rehearsals in Kuwait to prepare for OIF. Those exercises (VICTORY STRIKE and VICTORY SCRIMMAGE) proved valuable in dealing with the security challenges after March 2003. Not all of the 3d COSCOM units, however, were able to participate. Some Reserve Component units had not been mobilized in time. Coordination was also difficult because 3d COSCOM had not been given authority to directly coordinate with stateside Reserve Component units. Many Reserve Component units did not have access to the Army’s classified Internet at their home stations, a major limitation that prevented them from working with planning documents. This caused numerous disconnects in theater. In one case, a POL transportation company deployed to Kuwait expecting to draw pre-positioned equipment on arrival. However, 3d COSCOM had expected them to deploy with equipment and made no plans for them to fall in on equipment in theater.41

CSS units at every level did not have sufficient numbers and types of radios, satellite communication sets, and computer network systems to conduct their operations. The disparity among Active Duty 3d COSCOM units and the National Guard and Army Reserve units augmenting 3d COSCOM and assigned to the 377th TSC caused numerous communications problems.42 The complexity of CSS logistical systems and the automation used to manage those systems is far beyond the scope of this chapter, but some general insights can be gained from the after action reviews of both 3d COSCOM and 13th COSCOM.

The limited number of tactical radios in vehicles authorized in CSS units made it difficult and dangerous to conduct widespread operations. The high threat to logistics convoys exacerbated the problem when only one of three or one of five vehicles had radio systems aboard. Before the war, Major General Fletcher, the 3d COSCOM commander, expressed hope that digital- and satellite-based cargo tracking systems would also provide an ancillary security benefit to vulnerable convoys by giving the command better visibility of where their vehicles were traveling in relation to nearby combat units. Main supply route (MSR) security, nevertheless, remained his biggest fear prior to “crossing the berm” into Iraq.43 This same radio shortage would later hamper the ability of CSS units to supervise operations on LSAs and forward operating bases (FOBs)—equivalent in many cases to “running” a small city, a city under constant threat of attack.44

Digital automation systems for CSS operations were in widespread use throughout OIF as they were for combat operations. One of the premises on which the Army based its transformation of logistics from so-called iron mountains to distributed logistics was the ability to have real-time tracking of unit requirements and real-time tracking of the location and condition of all logistical supplies and services. Army doctrine labeled this as “end-to-end” visibility of items from the “factory to the foxhole.”45 With that knowledge, logistical planners could make accurate decisions about how to provide support to the end user (in combat or otherwise) precisely and in a timely manner. Despite a decade of steady automation progress since DESERT STORM, the goal remained unattained in 2003 and 2004.

The Army’s CSS community did make great strides in tracking the location of supplies and equipment as they were transported into theater, packaged for shipment, and then delivered by convoy to units that needed them. The RFID tags on containers and parts fed data into various logistical tracking systems to a far greater extent than ever before. Digital automation systems tracked every category of supply from the proverbial beans to bullets. Combat units sent their requisitions by radio and computer network into multiple CSS systems, which then attempted to consolidate the needs, locate, ship, or order the necessary items.

The reality of Iraq exposed weaknesses, however, in the ability of CSS operators to make the DB CSS work effectively. Though almost all cargo containers were equipped with RFID tags to identify their contents, many CSS units lacked the digital readers to access the data. Most of the long-range communication systems used in 3d COSCOM did not work as expected. A number of the corps support groups and separate battalions did not have any communication devices that worked over extended distances, to include commercial systems purchased before the war for that purpose. General Fletcher often found himself and his assault CP staff personally locating and directing convoys and other CSS assets on the battlefield.46 Only after the CSS infrastructure of bases and fixed communication sites was installed could information be routinely passed between units.

While CSS operators faced many challenges managing every class of supply from food to ammunition and medical equipment, most problems were sporadic and relatively quickly fixed and well managed. Incompatibility between automated systems, which managed specific classes of supplies, put great burdens on materiel management centers and transportation units. Network connections between distant sites manned by units with differing systems added to the challenge. Managing the logistical support for the roughly 180,000 Coalition Soldiers while serving in an often dangerous environment in a Third World nation with limited infrastructure was a monumental accomplishment for which CSS leaders should take pride.

The following two examples, one negative and one positive, illustrate the various command and control challenges for CSS units. The tracking of repair parts for weapons and equipment, Class IX supplies in the Army system, remained problematic throughout 2003. One study concluded that the CSS unit infrastructure and command, control, and communications architecture in Kuwait and within 3d COSCOM were simply unable to handle the volume of requirements once combat operations began. Inadequate or incompatible communication systems plagued units of all kinds. These factors, plus the lack of transportation units and other management teams between March and July 2003 drove readiness rates for key systems to less than 70 percent.47 These problems were greatest during the advance on Baghdad and in the months following, but they continued into the initial postinvasion operations period of OIF.

The tracking and delivery of bulk fuel supplies, classified as Class III (B), was a bright spot for logisticians. One report from 3d COSCOM succinctly stated, “Little can be said of Class III (B) operations—they were a success,” and “Don’t change Army doctrine or organization for Class III (B). It works.”48 Unlike boxes of food, parts, and ammunition, which were transported in varying ways, bulk fuel was a “single commodity item requiring transportation in the same container, day in and day out with dedicated transportation assets.” The 49th Transportation Group (POL) had sole responsibility for managing and delivering fuel to forward units in 2003.49

Other issues with command, control, and communications focused on digitization within the system. The 3d COSCOM commander expressed his frustration with the Army’s digital systems for maintenance and supply, and with the Corps/Theater Automatic Data Processing Service Center systems: “The STAMISs, SARSS, ULLS, CTASC [various automated CSS systems], . . . we pushed it as far as it technically could go and it is not adequate to support the modern battlefield. It takes way too much expertise, time, energy, and effort to do very, very, simple tasks like passing information.”50 An Army Logistics Whitepaper summarized this fundamental problem in December 2003: “Today’s Army Logistician cannot ‘see’ the requirements on the battlefield. Our customers cannot see the support that is coming their way. As a result, we rely on pushing support based on our best estimate of what we think the Soldier needs. Soldiers order the same item several times because they have no confidence support is on the way.”51 Among many recommendations for action, the paper calls for expanding the use of several systems that performed well during OIF. The Movement Tracking System (MTS), a mobile, two-way, text-messaging, and Global Positioning System (GPS)-based location-tracking device, provided in-transit visibility of convoys and their supplies. RFID tags also worked well. The system’s design to integrate all CSS data into a comprehensive whole, however, did not work as expected in 2003 and 2004.52 Though much progress had been made since the mid-1990s, the command and control systems required to make DB CSS operations effective on the battlefield were not fully developed in 2003 and 2004.


Chapter 12. Logistics and Combat Service Support Operations





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