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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



The tremendous mobility and firepower of the US Army in Iraq required an equally tremendous maintenance effort to sustain. During the rapid advance on Baghdad and until the Coalition fully established the CSS infrastructure in Iraq in the fall of 2003, maintenance suffered. Units operated with equipment that was not fully operational. This was hardly an unusual situation, and did not greatly affect combat operations. As in peacetime training, units were able to operate their equipment even with deficiencies. The 2d Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, a unit serving with the 3d ID, fought its way into Baghdad with 29 of its 30 tanks and 13 of its 14 BFVs, despite having all 30 tanks and 7 of its 14 BFVs officially categorized as nonmission capable (deadlined) on readiness reports for one or more deficiencies. This was a very impressive figure after several weeks of combat over several hundred miles. Had Iraqi units fought harder, however, this decline in equipment readiness could have had a much greater effect on the ability of units to keep up their relentless pace.

During the advance on Baghdad, logistics priorities were for food, water, fuel, and ammunition. Units maintained their combat effectiveness by using a combination of their prescribed load list (PLL), spare parts the unit carried with it on the march to Baghdad, and by ruthless salvage operations from damaged or destroyed equipment. In October 2002 the Army had increased its funding for stocks of repair parts and supplies for its pre-positioned equipment in the Middle East. When the invasion began in mid-March, those efforts had not yet reached fruition. The Class IX parts shortage during the invasion and early in Phase IV operations was then exacerbated by the greatly extended MSRs from Baghdad to Kuwait, which were hundreds of miles long. The Class IX supply system and the maintenance system were not getting the job done in the view of the end users whose combat units wanted their equipment fully functional with no delays.100

The intensity of daily operations in OIF contributed to the challenges. The Army set normal peacetime mileage rates for the Abrams and Bradleys at 800 miles per year, a basis for planning annual training events, fuel costs, and required maintenance support. The 3-week attack by US forces from Kuwait to Baghdad in March and April 2003 measured more than 350 miles in straight-line distances. In October 2003 a sampling of M1A2 tanks showed monthly mileage rates in excess of 700 miles, nearly a year of use in a single month. In April and May 2004 a sample of M1A1 Abrams tanks being monitored in the program exceeded 550 miles per month.101 While individual vehicle types and unit usage rates varied wildly from month to month, the useful service life of tanks and other Army vehicles were being rapidly expended in OIF.

In early 2005 the Congressional Budget Office reported to Congress that Army and Marine Corps equipment was being used at rates many times greater than in peacetime. In particular, Soldiers and Marines were driving trucks roughly 10 times the amount of miles per year than the average peacetime amount. Tanks and light armored vehicles were being driven at rates roughly five times those of peacetime. Additionally, Army and Marine aviators were flying helicopters at roughly twice peacetime rates.102 Adding to the wear and tear on vehicles were the desert heat, rough terrain, and sand. As wheeled vehicles became armored in 2004, the extra weight put additional strain on drive trains, engines, and suspensions. By 2005 the Army was forced to develop a new process called “Reset,” to replace, overhaul, and repair battled damaged and worn out equipment from both OIF and OEF. By fiscal year (FY) 2006, the cost of the Reset program had grown to $13.47 billion.103

One seemingly mundane but illustrative example of the magnitude of the increased demand on Army vehicles in 2003 and 2004 can be seen by looking at the use of track shoes, a critical part of the treads on Abrams tanks and BFVs. Anticipating the upsurge in requirements, US Army TACOM increased its monthly production order of track shoes from Goodyear Corporation from 10,000 to 17,000 per month in December 2002. Despite this increased order, the Army began to run short of track shoes by April 2003 as unit and war reserve stocks began to run out. The demand for Abrams tank and BFV track shoes in May 2003 was for 55,000 shoes, more than three times the forecasted monthly demand.104

The Army later raised its monthly requirement from Goodyear to 25,000 track shoes per month in July 2003. Goodyear needed between 3 and 6 months, however, to increase capacity to meet the new requirement. Budget authorization and contract timing issues also delayed production in the spring of 2003. Congress authorized the Army to make a $5.2 million investment in Goodyear’s production facilities to meet the surge requirements and to maintain its track shoe manufacturing capacity into the future.105

To deal with the massive flow of track shoes and other repair parts into Iraq, the Army initially relied on the personnel in the relatively small Class IX warehouse operation at Camp Doha, Kuwait. Originally designed to support the regular rotation of brigades to Kuwait for exercises and staffed with Army contractors, it was overwhelmed by the demands of the war in 2003. The 377th TSC stood up a nondoctrinal theater distribution center (TDC) at Camp Doha, Kuwait, to handle the demand by drawing personnel from various CSS units in Iraq.106

As the high demand for spare parts became evident in the summer of 2003 and challenged the nation to produce the materiel needed to fight the war in Iraq, the Army was also learning some tough lessons about the CSS structure in its tactical units. The Army’s Stryker brigades were designed to create a small logistical footprint and relied on other CSS units to augment their internal assets. The AMC created a unique logistical support element just for the Stryker brigades, because the systems were still so new that they had not been officially transferred to the Army for life cycle support purposes. AMC Stryker Forward, commanded by an Army Reserve colonel, consisted of approximately 120 civilians working in the United States and in 15-man teams deployed with each SBCT to provide maintenance expertise.107

The civilian logistics experts in AMC Stryker Forward were part of a much larger civilian maintenance force found driving convoys, working on FOBs, and operating within some headquarters at nearly every level of the maintenance system during OIF. In Kuwait, civilian contractors played a significant role in performing maintenance on equipment drawn from and returned to pre-positioned stocks. Contractors also performed some depot-level repairs of damaged equipment rather than transporting it all back to German or US bases for overhaul.

Maintenance issues led to a decrease in Army unit effectiveness in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Saddam regime and remained in decline for several months before recovering to normal levels. Put simply, combat units in this initial period lacked sufficient spare parts and other supplies necessary to keep their key equipment functional. The Army struggled to create the theater distribution network to track requirements, place timely and accurate orders into the supply system, and deliver the supplies to combat units in Iraq. Manufacturers in the United States worked overtime to increase the supply of materials and to increase their capacity to produce highly specialized equipment and parts. The production and distribution of armor for Soldiers and vehicles were particularly problematic and were not resolved until 2004, or later in the case of up-armored logistical vehicles. Nevertheless, despite sporadic shortages, US and Coalition forces continued to conduct operations in Iraq without significant supply and maintenance limitations.

Chapter 12. Logistics and Combat Service Support Operations

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