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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


Transportation: Delivering the Goods in Iraq

Between April and May 2003 Coalition operations transitioned from a war of movement to an environment where units generally operated within assigned areas throughout Iraq. OIF logistics operations also transitioned from trying to keep pace with the rapid advance of armored columns on a narrow axis of attack toward Baghdad, to establishing a steady-state system for getting supplies distributed across the country. Army doctrine divides the distribution function into three parts: visibility, management, and transportation of resources over a network to units.53

After May 2003 two major logistical bases served as the hubs for CSS operations in Iraq: Camp Arifjan in Kuwait and LSA Anaconda north of Baghdad. The 377th TSC operated the main supply base at Camp Arifjan as the theater-level logistics hub for the entire CENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR). Within the 377th TSC, the 143d TRANSCOM and 3d Theater Army Movement Control Agency were responsible for modal, terminal, and movement control operations in Kuwait. They coordinated highway transportation and movement control operations with the 3d COSCOM in Iraq. A network of MSRs and alternate supply routes (ASRs) fanned out northwest toward Baghdad, with MSR Tampa actually running all the way to the Iraq-Syrian border in northern Iraq. At LSA Anaconda, 3d COSCOM supply lines radiated outward in a pattern resembling spokes to support the units of CJTF-7. This configuration supported the regular delivery of all classes of supplies, via truck convoys, to the many FOBs on which combat units were based and from which they drew their support. 3d COSCOM also ran the airfield at LSA Anaconda.

The arrangement looked more like a layered grid system encompassing and overlaying the entire country than the trace of a front line supported by logistics elements situated to the rear. Theater and operational CSS units, mainly transportation units, carried out the mission of getting supplies and materiel into and out of Iraq, using LSA Anaconda as their main hub. Some theater-level CSS units provided area support to units within a defined area of operation from fixed supply hubs, either directly to units operating from the same FOB or by making the relatively short runs between the FOB and tactical units nearby. Tactical CSS units from division support commands (DISCOMs) and separate brigade CSS units fanned out from the various FOBs to deliver supplies to their subordinate elements located in the hinterland. Both combat and CSS units confronted a “layered, noncontiguous, nonlinear battlefield.”54

After the conventional phase of OIF ended in April 2003, both the 377th TSC and 3d COSCOM turned to Iraqi and American contractors to supplement the Army’s internal transportation assets. Once the road networks between Kuwait and Baghdad were cleared of enemy forces during major combat operations, the threat to CJTF-7 LOCs was relatively low. As convoys moved north along the main supply route into Iraq, the risk to convoys grew in proportion to their proximity to Baghdad. Trucks in the daily SUSTAINER PUSH convoy from Kuwait pulled into Tallil and transferred their trailers to waiting tractors, which in turn continued on to LSA Anaconda in an operation that took 22 hours to complete. The system was reminiscent of the RED BALL EXPRESS of World War II. If traveling north of Baghdad, sustainersustainer push convoys would remain overnight at LSA Anaconda near Balad, traveling further north to Mosul the next morning. Depending on the efficiency of the cargo transfer teams, the average convoy to and from Kuwait took from 10 to 12 days. The drivers usually had a day off and then were on the road again.55

Still, attacks on convoys by various insurgent groups during the summer and fall of 2003 forced the 377th TSC and 3d COSCOM to dedicate some of their assets to provide protection to the convoys. Attacks on convoys rose from 9 in May to 40 in September. Drawing on lessons learned from Vietnam, transportation commanders resurrected the so-called “gun truck” method of defending convoys. Gun trucks were based on a number of platforms including HMMWVs and HEMTTs and were armed with a squad automatic weapon (SAW) or heavy machinegun. These trucks, which included improvised armoring, were largely the product of the “Skunk Works” of the 181st Transportation Battalion operating out of Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The 181st also pioneered the “Tiger Team Concept”—two HMMWV gun trucks traveled ahead of the convoy looking for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and making sure civilian vehicles did not pass the convoy. The prevailing ratio of security was to have one “green” military vehicle covering every three “white” (i.e., commercial trucks). The 181st, whose home station was Mannheim, Germany, was the primary ground transportation unit delivering supplies to the Army’s V Corps/CJTF-7 from June 2003 through 2004.56

Some combat units did not have sufficient internal transportation capacity and required assistance from nontactical units. In the case of the 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division (2d ID), the Army’s first Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), both the nearby corps support battalion (CSB) and the brigade support battalion (BSB) were needed to truck supplies to the FOBs from which the brigade operated. However, moving supplies to any SBCT elements outside the FOB was a responsibility that belonged exclusively to the BSB. One report noted, “The issue in [the Stryker Brigade’s] AO is the CSB is not capable (equipment/training) of moving through high-threat areas. The [Stryker] brigade has even had to provide back-up support to the CSB for maintenance and has pushed re-supply convoys to [non-SBCT] Corps units in the AO when the threat was too high [to run CSB vehicles].”57

Traffic management for Coalition vehicle movements presented significant challenges for the convoys and the units through whose areas they moved. Commanders found that controlling, or at least knowing, what type of military vehicle movement was taking place in their unit’s area of operations (AO) was extremely difficult to manage. Tactical commanders wanted to control the movement so convoys did not accidentally wander into ongoing combat operations, and so they could quickly provide security assistance to a convoy that came under attack. While theater and COSCOM level transportation managers coordinated the dispatch and routing of convoys, that information often did not get passed in a timely manner to units that controlled the territory through which the convoys moved.58 3d COSCOM convoys were required to have at least one vehicle with a satellite tracking device that could be monitored by each US division and separate brigade via a logistics tracking system. Not all theater level convoys, however, had these systems and employed this technique.59

More than simply a matter of traffic control and delayed or lost cargo, effective transportation management was a matter of life and death for lightly armed and armored logistics convoys. Movement along supply routes through major cities such as Baghdad remained dangerous throughout this period. Despite insurgent attacks, the Army’s military and civilian transporters kept CJTF-7 supplied without a significant lapse throughout 2003. The scope and complexity of planning and monitoring all Coalition military and civilian road movements in a country the size of California should not be underestimated. On an average day, approximately 130 to 140 major logistical convoys were on the roads in Iraq, consisting of roughly 1,800 to 2,200 trucks and around 4,000 personnel. Insurgents targeted these convoys, causing operation of the supply chain to be treated as a combat operation.60 Supply areas routinely were attacked by random rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) volleys and car bombs. Stability operations, force protection missions, convoy operations, and combat operations were inextricably mixed in ways few ever expected before March 2003, as Soldiers and contractors alike fought to deliver the goods.

Chapter 12. Logistics and Combat Service Support Operations

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