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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


Troop Rotations in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

In addition to the deployment of forces into Kuwait for the March 2003 invasion, Army logisticians planned and conducted massive operations to redeploy units and Soldiers out of Iraq and deploy their replacements into theater. In a steady flow that peaked at regular intervals, Soldiers, units, supplies, and equipment moved constantly in and out of theater between May 2003 and January 2005. Though little noticed outside CSS circles, the first major rotation of forces, constituting the transition between OIF I and OIF II in early 2004, stands as an illustration of the effort. In many ways, it is a testimony to how well Army logistics planners have conducted these rotations.

From mid-January through mid-April 2004, the DA, 377th TSC, and CJTF-7 executed one of the largest and most complex movement feats in the history of modern warfare. Nearly 260,000 personnel and more than 50,000 pieces of equipment moved into and out of Iraq during the swap of OIF I and OIF II forces. This effort included rotating forces from 32 nations, almost none of whom were self-sufficient in logistics, command and control, and force protection. Major General Wojdakowski, the CJTF-7 deputy commander, directed that Coalition forces in this rotation would enjoy the same level of support as US forces. In those cases, CJTF–7 committed to providing support functions to those Coalition forces using either US military assets or contracted support.135 This movement took place without any pause in operations during the April 2004 uprisings. In fact, the rotation occurred during the most intense period of fighting since invasion of Iraq began in 2003. The story of how Army logisticians supported the last minute extension of 1st AD in Iraq during the rotation of OIF I and OIF II serves as an excellent illustration of the degree to which CSS operations had matured by 2004.

A Case Study in Logistical Agility: CSS Soldiers Turn 1st Armored Division Around

When the Shia militias under the leadership of Muqtada al-Sadr rose up and took control of several cities to the south and southeast of Baghdad from Iraqi and Coalition forces in April 2004, the logisticians of CJTF-7 and 1st AD performed CSS feats of Herculean proportion. After a year in Iraq, the 1st AD had spent much of March 2004 preparing to turn over responsibility for Baghdad to the 1st CAV, which had arrived as part of the OIF II rotation (after having been removed from the OIF I deployment in April 2003). This included the transfer of bases, supplies, and equipment. Many 1st AD Soldiers and thousands of pieces of equipment were moved to Kuwait to prepare the division for redeployment. This CSS operation took place in the midst of the much larger deployment and redeployment of all CJTF-7 forces for OIF II.

The transfer ceremony between 1st AD and 1st CAV took place at 0900 on 15 April 2004. On 16 April 2004 Major General Martin Dempsey, 1st AD Commander, issued OPORD 4-006, Operation IRON SABRE. Operation IRON SABRE directed the division’s brigades “to defeat Anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF) threatening stability and security” in the MND-CS area of operations.136 Ironically, the 1st AD would spend an additional 2 months conducting the traditional combat operations it had prepared for 2002–03 before its initial deployment to Iraq. This unexpected extension in theater placed heavy demands on the CJTF-7 and 1st AD logistics units who had almost completed the movement of 1st AD out of Iraq when the order was issued. The CSS operators at the 377th TSC, 3d COSCOM and 13th COSCOM, as well as those in 1st AD had to “turn off” the redeployment process, unpack, and unload equipment in Kuwait and Baghdad and prepare for combat operations in less than 1 week.137 The division’s equipment was spread widely throughout the theater—some still in Baghdad, some literally on the road being trucked south, and the remainder split between Camp Doha and Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

Division and general support engineers constructed 10 new FOBs, as well as many rearming and refueling points for the division’s heavy units. At several locations in Kuwait, CSS personnel worked nonstop to turn around the convoys coming out of Iraq and loading them with the new supplies to support the division. The insurgents had skillfully cut MSR Tampa, the Coalition’s main supply route to Kuwait, by destroying bridges, culverts, and roadways. Many critically needed supplies were flown to the FOBs by heavy lift helicopters from V Corps aviation units. The helicopters of the 4th Brigade and 2d ACR had been disassembled and packed for shipment to Germany. They had to be reassembled and deferred maintenance had to be quickly completed before returning to combat. Nevertheless, twice-daily air resupply runs from the Baghdad Airport to Karbala and An Najaf, dubbed the “Iron Eagle Express,” were vital to sustaining 1st AD’s combat units until the land MSR was reopened. The Iron Eagle Express flew 250 tons of supplies and 1,400 passengers in more than 100 missions during the 1st AD’s extension campaign.138

Many of the supplies, computer systems, medical stocks, repair parts, and ammunition turned over by the 1st AD to its replacements had to be reclaimed and redistributed before the division could begin operations. The DISCOM struggled to maintain a 10-day supply of rations and water at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) and a 5-day supply at the new FOBs. Some Soldiers began referring to ammunition resupply as “an involuntary example of ‘just in time’ logistics,” as CH-47 helicopters flew directly into unit FOBs to deliver critical stocks. The 1st AD’s wheeled vehicle fleet readiness rating fell as low as 82 percent, reflecting the previous year’s intensive use as well as the emergency supply and maintenance system’s quick return to operations. Tracked vehicles used track and other components at much higher than normal rates due to frequent long road marches and combat operations. Ammunition, repair parts, and petroleum products remained in short supply well into May 2004.

Despite the partially severed supply lines and the half-completed process of preparing the division for redeployment, the CSS Soldiers of 1st AD and 3d COSCOM “turned the division around” in less than 10 days. Both 1st AD and 2d ACR remained in theater until early July and defeated the militia forces of Muqtada al-Sadr. Much of the credit for their success between April and July must be given to the CSS Soldiers who performed this monumental feat of logistical planning and execution.

Chapter 12. Logistics and Combat Service Support Operations

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